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EXPERIENCE has convinced the 
author of the following pages, that 
children seldom understand the poetry 
which they early learn by rote, and 
that thus, instead of forming a poetic 
taste, they acquire the habit of repeat- 
ing words to which they affix no 
distinct ideas, or of admiring melo- 
dious sounds which are to them 
destitute of meaning. 


The pleasure that we receive from 
the remote allusions or metaphoric 
language of poetry depends, in a 
great degree, upon the rapidity with 
which we pass over a number of in- 
termediate ideas, and seize the mean- 
ing of the author ; but children find 
much difficulty in supplying the 
elisions of poetic thought and dic- 
tion. It is to them a laborious 
process ; and even when they perform 
it successfully, much of the pleasure 
escapes during the operation. Surely 
it is doing young people injustice, 
to force fine poetry upon them before 
they can possibly taste its excellence; 


for thus we rob them of present, and 
defraud them of future pleasure. 
Beside the hazard of disgusting them 
with poetry, there is danger of in- 
ducing servile imitation, and of ha- 
bituating their minds to admire with- 
out choice or discrimination. The 
world of literature now abounds with 
copiers of copyists, who, varying 
merely the arrangement of the words, 
run the changes eternally upon the 
same set of ideas. Probably this 
want of originality of thought, and 
this perpetual sameness of expression, 
may in some measure arise from the 
veneration which is early impressed 

a 3 


upon the mind for certain standards of 
excellence ; veneration independent 
of reason, which disposes the young 
student to admire and imitate, with- 
out instructing him how to analyze 
or combine. Whoever attends to the 
observations made by children upon 
poetry, will soon discover <c that 
their admiration is usually excited by 
quaint and uncommon expressions, 
rather than by natural sentiments, or 
lively pictures of reality. They hear 
that the sublime is veiled in obscu- 
rity, and they are inclined to venerate 
whatever is obscure, as if it were ne- 
cessarily sublime. Not only chil- 


dren, but poets themselves, are in- 
clined to this mistake. Gray says, 
that the language of the age is never 
the language of poetry ; and he was 
so much pleased with certain obso- 
lete expressions in Dry den, that he 
made a list of them for his own prac 
tice, such as museful mopings, 
roundelay of love, ireful mood, 
furbished for the field, -foiled dod- 
dered oaks. Without stopping to 
examine whether these ornaments be 
truly poetic, we may safely assert, 
that no one, merely by using them, 
can become a poet : lackeys do not 

become gentlemen by strutting in the 


cast clothes of their masters. Gray 
seems, however, to have planned 
with one taste, and to have executed 
with another. The Elegy in a Coun- 
try Churchyard, and his Ode on 
Eton College, the most simple of 
his poetry, are perhaps the most ge- 
nerally esteemed ; and his Hymn to 
Adversity does not seem to require 
the aid of uncouth phraseology to 
make it equal to " Ruin seize thee, 
ruthless king ! ' or the Song of Odin. 
To form a poetic taste, very differ- 
ent means must be employed. The 
attention must be early directed to 
those circumstances in nature, which 


are capable of exciting ideas either of 
the sublime or beautiful ; and to such 
books as may assist in awakening the 
mind to observation. Perhaps the 
first introduction to poetry should be 
obtained from prose. Many short 
sentences of true poetry have been se- 
lected for children from the Old 
Testament. Many may be found in 
books of natural history. White of 


Selbourne describes the various flight 
of birds in the following manner: 
" Swallows sweep over the sur- 
face of the ground and water, and 
distinguish themselves by quick evo- 
lutions', the king-fisher darts along 


like an arrow ; sky-larks rise and fall 
perpendicularly as they sing ; wood- 
larks hang poised in the air/ 3 &c. 

Compare these with Pope's epi- 
thets in Windsor Forest: " The 
whirring pheasant/' " the clamor- 
ous lapwing," " the mounting lark/ 3 
&c. It is obvious that the same ha- 
bits of observation supplied the prose 
writer with description, and the poet 
with epithets. 

From simple epithets and single 
sentences we may proceed to more 
finished passages, such as the follow- 
ing, from Mrs. Barbauld's Hymns : 

" The glorious sun is set in the 


west ; the night dew falls, and the air, 
which was sultry, becomes cool." 

" The flowers fold up their colour- 
ed leaves ; they fold themselves up, 
and hang their heads on the slender 
stalk," &c. 

The sublime images in these 
hymns are happily suited to the 
comprehension of children; and their 
harmonious language charms the ear, 
without cheating the understanding. 
Many beautiful passages, proper for 
youth, may be found in Watts " On 
the Improvement of the Mind ;" and 
in the measured prose of Fenelon 
there is much eloquence, which 


young people can taste and compre- 
hend before they are old enough to 
read the whole of his Telemachus 
with advantage. 

There is still wanting a mythology 
for children, that might lay the foun- 
dation for a poetic taste, without 
shocking decency, or inculcating vice 
and folly. Lord Chesterfield, the 
Abbe Tressan, and Madame MOD- 
signy, have compiled pleasing works 
on this subject, that may be safely 
put into the hands of children ; but 
they have borrowed no ornaments 
from poetry. Surely such a work 
might be enriched with proper pas- 


sages from the best translations of 
Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, from some 
of the French poets, and from the 
exquisite gems in the Botanic 

When our pupils have obtained 
some general knowledge of mytholo- 
gy, and have acquired the rudiments 
of a taste for poetic language, it will 
then be the proper time to introduce 
them to our classical poets. 

In education, however, as in all 
the affairs of life, the right must often 
yield to the expedient; and we must 
consider not merely what is the best 
possible, but rather what is the most 



feasible, in the existing circumstances. 
It is not to be supposed, that pre- 
ceptors can be prevailed upon im- 
mediately to change their usual prac- 
tice ; nor can it be expected that pa- 
rents, although convinced of the 
error of putting fine poetry too early 
into the hands of children, should 
have sufficient strength of mind to 
let their pupils appear ignorant of 
what others of the same age are 
taught. It is therefore probable, that 
the practice of teaching young people 
a certain quantity of poetry by rote 
will long prevail, both in schools and 
in private families. With this belief, 


the author has endeavoured to render 
a few popular poems intelligible to 
young readers. 

Those who have long-established 
prepossessions in favour of L' Allegro 
and II Penseroso may perhaps deem it 
a species of literary sacrilege, to criti- 
cise any part of these poems, and will 
turn with disgust from the detailed 


explanation of lines, which they sup- 
pose must be intuitively understood 
by kindred souls. Where expres- 
sions have a prescriptive right to be 
admired, it will perhaps be thought 
superfluous, if not presumptuous, 
to examine the reason why we ad- 


mire. But the following pages are 
addressed to those who have no lite- 
rary prejudices ; the author shields 
himself from the indignation of the 
learned, by professing to write only 
for the unlearned reader ; and, with- 
out any ambition to shine, he is 
content with the humble hope of 
being useful. 


i OUNG readers need not be made accu- 
rately acquainted with the various definitions 
which have been given of poetry. If, hovv- 
ver, a preceptor wish to determine in his 
pupil's mind the limits of prose and poetry, 
he may refer to some excellent remarks in 
Lord Kaimes's Elements of Criticism, in Gray's 
Letters to West, and in Mr. West's Answers, 
and also in the interlude between the first 
and second cantos of the second part of the 
Botanic Garden. 

It is sufficient for the present purpose to 
inform the learner, that poetry is generally 
written in verse ; and that verse differs from 
prose by being divided into lines, each of 


which contains a certain number of sylla- 


Heroic metre, which is the most usual kind, 
consists of lines of ten syllables. Pope's and 
Milton's works are chiefly written in this 
metre; but Pope writes in rhyme, and Milton 
in blank verse : 

Soft as the \vily fox is seen to creep, 
Where bask on sunny banks the simple sheep." POPE. 

Each of these lines consists of ten syllables; 


and the last words of each of them, " creep," 
and*' sheep," rhyme to each other ; that is to 
say, resemble each other in sound. 

11 Ye mists and exhalations that now rise 
From hill or steaming 1 lake, dusky or gray, 
Till the sun paints your fleecy skirts with g-old." 


Each of these lines also consists often syl- 
lables; but though they are not in rhyme, we 
easily distinguish them from prose. The 
difference consists in the choice of the words, 
and in their arrangement, as may be per- 


ceived by reading the same words in an order 
different from that in which they are at present 
placed. The ear will feel that the cadence or 
sound is unlike verse ; and the understanding 
will know that the sense is conveyed in words 
different from those used in history or in a 
newspaper ; for instance, the following passage 
cannot be mistaken for prose : " Ye exhala- 
tions and mists that now rise from steaming 
lake, or gray or dusky hill, till the sun paints 
with gold your fleecy skirts." 

* / 

All verses are not written in lines of ten 

syllables; some are written in eight, and 
some few in twelve ; indeed we meet with lines 
in poetry of every number of syllables from 
three to fourteen ; and if the reader have a 
mind to be informed more particularly, he 
may consult a pretty little book which was 
published some years ago, the fourth volume 
of the Circle of Sciences. He should, how- 
ever, ask some friend to point out what 
parts of the book he may consult with 


In poetry words are not used literally ; that 
is to say, they are not to be understood ex- 
actly in the usual manner : for example, 
when we say the " golden sun," we do not 
mean to say that the sun is made of gold. 
This mode of speaking is called figurative, or 
speaking in figures or tropes ; the word trope 
being used by the best writers indiscriminate- 
ly with figure, when inanimate substances are 
described, as if they were capable of action : 
when qualities are attributed to any thing 
which do not exactly belong to it, or when 
an adjective which is suited to one word is 
joined to another in a sentence, this manner 
of speaking, or writing, is called figurative, 
probably because qualities of the mind are in 
this manner changed into ideal figures or 

The words to speak truth are prose : the 
truth here means merely what is true ; but 
he spoke with the voice of Truth is figurative, 
because Truth is here represented as a person 
that has a voice. 


Not only a single word, but several words 
together, or a whole sentence, may be figura- 
tive ; as, " The trembling Grove confessed 
its fright." In this line, not only every 
word, but all the sentiments, are figurative. 

Figures of rhetorick are of various sorts, 
and have particular names, all of which are 
well described in the following passage from 
Blackvvell, which I do not quote as necessary 
to be got by heart by my young readers, but 
that it may be referred to upon occasion :- 

" There is a general analogy and relation 
between all tropes, and that in all of them, 
a man uses a foreign or strange word instead 
of a proper one, and therefore says one thing 
and means something different. When he says 
one thing and means another almost the same, 
it is a synecdoche. When he says one thing 
and means another mutually depending, it is 
a metonymy. When he says one thing and 
means another opposite or contrary, it is an 
irony. When he says one thing and means 


another like it, it is a metaphor. A metaphor 
continued and often repeated, becomes an 
allegory. A metaphor carried to a great 
degree of boldness is an hyperbole; and when 
at first sound it seems a little harsh and 
shocking, and may be imagined to carry some 
impropriety, it is a catachresis." 


Explanation of The Youth and the Philo- 
sopher 1 

Elegy, supposed to be written in 
a Country Churchyard, by 
Gray 11 

Milton's L 1 Allegro 51 

// Penseroso 87 

Collins 1 s Ode to Fear . 138 

The Speeches of Henry the Fifth 
and the Chief Justice 159 




A GRECIAN youth, of talents rare, 
Whom Plato's philosophic care 

Philosophic care means the care 
of a philosopher. 

" Had form'd for virtue's nobler view, 
By precept and example too, 
Would often boast his matchless skill 
To curb the steed, and guide the wheel. 

Nobler view. More noble than 
what ? than curbing the steed or 
guiding the wheel What wheel? 
the wheel of the youth's chariot or 


carriage it does not particularly al- 
lude to the wheel ; it means the 

whole carriage. 

* And as he pass'd the gazing throng 
With graceful ease, and smack'd the thong, 

Throng-* -means a crowd, or col- 
lection of people. 

Graceful ease, like philosophic 
care, does not mean that ease was 
graceful, but that the ease with which 
he moved made him appear graceful. 

" The idiot wonder they express'd 
Was praise and transport to his breast. 

Idiot wonder. The word idiot is 
here converted into an adjective, for 
idiotic wonder. 

" At length quite vain he needs would show 
His master what his art could do, 


His master was Plato ; and as the 
youth saw that the skill he showed 
in driving a chariot had excited the 
wonder and admiration of others, he 
thought that it would equally delight 
his master. 

" And bade his slaves the chariot lead 
To Academus' sacred shade, 

The Grecians had slaves ; that is, 
people who were sometimes bought 
and sold, and who sometimes were 
captives taken in war : they were 
under the absolute dominion of their 
masters for life, and were governed 

bv the fear of blows, like our cattle. 


Sacred shade is the shade of the 
sacred grove which surrounded Aca- 

Academus was the name of the 


place where Plato taught philoso- 
phy ; from which name Academy is 

" The trembling grove confess'd its fright, 
The wood-nymphs started at the sight, 

Here the trees are personified, and 
represented as feeling the human pas- 
sion of fear ; and the wood-nymphs 
are also supposed to be terrified at 
the unaccustomed appearance of the 
chariot and horses. 

'* The muses drop the learned lyre, 
And to their inmost shades retire. 

The muses are supposed by the 
poet to frequent unseen this sacred 
grov 7 e, to listen to the divine philoso- 
phy of Plato ; and are represented as 
retiring with disgust from the intrusion 
of the youthful charioteer. 

" Howe'er the youth with forward air 


Bows to the sage, and mounts the car ; 
The lash resounds, the coursers spring; 
The chariot marks the rolling ring, 

However means, notwithstanding 
that the youth must have seen, that 
the philosophers who assembled to 
hear Plato were shocked at this 

The lash means the whip. When 
a boy cracks his whip, it is the lash 
that resounds. 

The rolling chariot not the roiling 
ring. This is a metonymy. 

'* And gath'ring crowds with eager eyes 
And shouts, pursue him as he flies. 

Crowds ', that were collecting at 
this sight, pursued him with their 
looks, and with shouts of applause. 

Hejlies does not mean that he 

B 3 


literally flew, but that he went almost 
as fast as if he flew. 

u Triumphant to the goal return'd, 
With nobler thirst his bosom burn'd, 

The goal sometimes means, as it 
does here, the place from which the 
racer sets out. 

Nobler thirst. His bosom burned 
with ambition to execute the nobler 
or more difficult task of passing ex- 
actly over the same track again. 

Burned. To burn with thirst is a 
well chosen metaphor, as both thirst 
and fire are quenched with water 
this is a double metaphor. 

" And now along tli' indented plain, 
The self-same track he marks agtin ; 

Indented literally means the im- 


press ion of teeth upon any thing, but it 
generally means any impression what- 
ever ; for instance, it here means the 
impression of the wheels in the 

The self-same track. It was a dif- 
ficult feat for a charioteer to direct the 
wheels of his chajiot so as to describe 
repeatedly the same circle. 

" Pursues with care the nice design, 
Nor ever deviates from the line. 

To deviate means to go out of the 


" Amazement seiz'd the circling crowd, 
The youths with emulation glow'd. 
Ev'n bearded sages hail'd the boy, 
And nil, but Plato, g;iz'd with joy. 

The feats of this youth equally de- 
lighted the old and young the youths 


he inspired with emulation, that is, a 
desire to equal or excel. Emulation 
does not mean envy. 

Bearded. Men who were old, 
and whose beards were grown long 
(for at that time the Grecians did 
not shave) were revered as old men 
were thought to be wiser than others, 
on account of their experience. 

Sage means wise ; a wise person 

is therefore called a sasre these also 


congratulated, or hailed him, upon 
his success ; all but Plato ; 

" For he, deep-judging sage, beheld 
With pain the triumphs of the field ; 

This sentence is transposed ; in 
prose it would be placed thus : For 
he the sage who judged of things with 
an unprejudiced eye (not dazzled 


with outward appearances) beheld the 
triumphs of the field with pain. 

Thejield means the plain on which 
he ran ; and the triumphs of the field 
are the victories of the course or race. 

" And when the charioteer drew nigh, 
And flush'd with hope had caught his eye, 

Flushed means elated ; persons 
who are elated with success are apt to 

"Alas! unhappy youth, he cried, 
Expect no praise from me (and sigh'd) ; 
With indignation I survey 
Such skill and judgment thrown away. 
The time profusely squander'd there 
On vulgar arts, beneath thy care, 
If well employed (at less expense), 
Had taught thee honour, virtue, sense, 
And rais'd thee from a coachman's fate, 
To govern men, mid ^uide the state." 

10 THE YOUTH, &C. 

* M 

And sighed. These words are 


not part of Plato's speech : it means, 
that the philosopher sighed as he 
spoke ; it grieved the wise and deep- 
judging Plato to see a youth of such 
rare talents or acquirements throw 
away his time. 

Expense means expense of time 
and trouble. 

The pupil will take notice of the 
word thee in the two lines before the 
last Thee is a more poetical word 
than you, it should be pointed out to 
the pupil, that the rhymes in this lit- 
tle poem are frequently inaccurate. 







THIS is one of the most popular 
poems that we know of; it pleases all 
ranks and all ages : and it is therefore 
a proper piece to begin with. 

This poem is called an Elegy, be- 
cause the subject of it is melancholy, 
It describes the appearance of a coun- 
try churchyard on a summers even- 
ing, and expresses the thoughts that 
arose in the mind of the poet, when 
he reflected upon the objects which he 
saw before him. He marks the hour, 
by mentioning the tolling of uie cur- 


tew or evening bell the return of the 
ploughman and his cattle from their 

work, and the approach of darkness. 


4< The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, 
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, 
And leaves the world to darkness and to rne. 

The curfew. When William Duke 


of Normandy conquered England, 
about seven hundred and fifty years 
ago, he obliged all the people to retire 
to their houses and put out their fires 
at eight o'clock in the evening, topre- 
vent them from assembling in the night 
to form schemes against his govern- 
ment. A bell was therefore rung at 
that hour to warn the people to cover 
their fires.* Cover in French is 

* This circumstance is denied by Andrews, in his 
history of England. 

ELEGY. -13 

eouvre and fire in French is feu, 
couvre-feu, which by leaving out 
some of the letters becomes corfeu 
or curfew. 

KnelL A church bell rung at the 
death of any person ; it is sometimes 
called a passing bell. 

Parting. Shortened from depart- 
ing. The words departing this life 
are sometimes used instead of dying. 
The tolling of the curfew may then 
be considered as a warning of the de- 
parture of the day. 

Wind. To wind means properly 
to move round. When a road is not 
straight, but turns in different direc- 
tions without sharp corners (angles), 
it is said to wind, though it does not 
form a circle, or move quite round. 
It is here said the herd wind; we 

14 GRAY'S 

should say in common conversation, 
the herd winds, because the herd 
means one herd ; but as there are 
many cattle in a herd, it is allowable to 
use the verb wind in the plural num- 
ber ; and the plural raises the idea of 
a scattered herd the singular number 
raises the idea of a drove. An observ- 
ing pupil may ask why winds might 
not as well have been used in the sin- 
gular number. The s is omitted be- 
cause it would not sound agreeably 
with the 5 at the beginning of the next 
word, slowly. 

Lea. Ground that is not plough- 
ed, but that is covered with grass, 
the same as lay. The next stanza or 
division of the poem continues to de- 
scribe evening, the landscape begins 
to disappear for want of light. The air 

ELEGY. lo 

is still or quiet, nothing but the hum 
of the beetle and the tinkling of the 
sheep bells are heard. 


" Now fades the glimmering landscape on the 


And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 
Save where the beetle wheels his droning 

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds ; 

The landscape or prospect is said 
to "glimmer ;" that is, to shine faintly. 

Solemn. The word solemn means 
awful : it originally meant what hap- 
pened but once a year. 

Observe, that it is a solemn still- 
ness which holds the air, and not the 
air which holds a solemn stillness. 

Droning beetle wheels his flight ; 
that is, flies in circles. " Droning 1 

16 GRAY'S 

a noise like that made by a large bee 
called a drone. 

Drowsy tinklings. One sheep in a 
flock has usually a bell tied round his 
neck, by the sound of which the rest 
of the flock is called, and kept toge- 
ther. When the sheep that carry the 
bell lie down to rest, they move their 
necks slowly and seldom, which gives 
to the bells a faint and interrupted 

Fold or pen a little inclosure 
made of moveable frames of wood, 
called hurdles, in which farmers 
sometimes inclose their flocks of 
sheep at night. The word fold is 
used here to express the flocks con- 
tained in the fold, and not the fold 
itself; for, though the drowsy tink- 
lings may be said to lull or put to 

ELEGY. 17 

sleep the flocks, it would be nonsense 
in prose or common conversation to 
talk of lulling a sheep-pen or fold. 
The word fold is sometimes used as 
a verb to "fold his flock," means to 
shut his flock up in a fold. 


"Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower, 
The moping owl does to the moon complain 
Of such as wand'ring near her secret bower, 
Molest her ancient solitary reign. 

Save except. 

Ivy-mantled tower. Mantle is a 
robe or covering. The poet describes 
the tower as having a covering of ivy, 
to show that it was an old tower, be- 
cause owls frequent ruined towers. 
Besides, as poetry is a kind of paint- 
ing in words, describing the tower as 
covered with ivy, makes it more like 

c 3 


a picture than it would have been 
without this additional circum- 

My young readers will observe, 
that in these stanzas the adjectives, 
parting, lowing, weary, glimmering, 
solemn, droning, distant, and ivy- 
mantled, would not have been used 
in prose. Adjectives used in this 
manner, to add to, or to limit, the 
descriptions contained in the sub- 
stantives to which they are annexed, 
are called epithets; and upon the 
propriety of these epithets much of 
the beauty of poetry depends. In 
prose, but few epithets are used ; and 
in poetry they should not be r- 
ed too closely, and they should never 

V J V 

appear superfluous. When two epi- 
thets are joined together, as, ivy- 

ELEGY. 19 

mantled, they are called compound 

Moping. To mope, is to seem 
stupified by melancholy : an owl has 
this appearance, especially in the day- 
time, because it nearly shuts its eyes, 
which cannot bear much light ; but 
at night the owl opens its eyes, which 
are formed so as to see in twilight 
(perhaps twainlight, that light which 
is between day and night) . An owl 
is very far from being a stupid bird. 
The ancients considered it as the fa- 
vouriteof Minerva; but whether this 
bird were her favourite as goddess of 
wisdom, or of war, is doubtful ; it is 
most probable that she patronised the 
owl in her warlike character. For 
Minerva is opposed to Mars, as em- 
ploying art against mere force. To 

20 GRAY'S 

surprise an enemy by night was ac- 
counted highly brave and meritorious ; 
and as the owl generally catches its 
prey by night, it might therefore be 
considered as an emblem of military 

Doctor Darwin says, in his Essay 
on Female Education, p. 99, " The 
owl bends both his eyes upon the ob- 
ject which he observes ; and by thus 
perpetually turning his head to the 
thing he inspects, appears to have 
greater attention to it, and has thence 
acquired the name of the bird of wis- 
dom. All other birds, I believe, look 
at objects with one eye only ; but it 
is with the eye nearest the object 
which they attend to/' 

Does to the moon complain. It his 
here meant, that the complaining 

ELEGY, 21 

notes of the owl seem to be addressed 
to the moon, as there is no other strik- 
ing general object, to which the owl 
might be supposed to address herself. 
Probably the notes of the owl are lit- 
tered to call her companions. 

Dogs are also supposed to howl at 
the moon. 

" Nor watchful dogs bark at the silent moon," 

is a line of Dryden's. 

" I'd rather be a dog, and bay the moon, 
" Than such a Roman." SHAKESPEARE. 

Molest her ancient solitary reign 
disturb her from her accustomed seat. 
The owl, by residing long in an old 
ruin, seems to acquire a right to her 
habitation by long possession. I will 
not attempt here to explain how men 
acquire a right to property by long 
undisturbed possession. 

22 i; KAY'S 


" Beneatrj those rugged elms, that yew tree's 

Where heaves the turf in many a mould' ring 


Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, 
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. 

By using the word " those,' 5 the 
poet endeavours to make the reader 
present at the scene. Gray has at- 
tempted the same kind of description 
in prose, in one of his letters from 
Italy, when he points out objects to 
his friend Mr. West, as if he were 
present and could see them. "There 
is a moon ! There are stars for you ! 
Do not you hear the fountain ? Do 
not you smell the orange flowers? 
That building yonder is the convent 
of St. Isidore ; and that eminence 


with the cypress trees and pines upon 
it, the top of mount Quirinal.'** 

Heaves the turf. Saying that the 
turf is raised in heaps, is prose ; saying 
that it rises, or seems to rise of itself, 
is the language of poetry. 

Rude forefathers of the hamlet 
sleep. Rude; it properly means 
rough, rustic, unpolished. Sleep ; 
Sleep in death. Death is frequently 
compared to sleep. 


** The breezy call of incense-breathing morn, 
The swallow twitt'ring from her straw-built 

The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing; horn, 


No more shall rouse them from their lowly 

* Gray's Letters, Vol. I. p. 89, Let. 21. 

24 GRAY'S 

Breezy call the call of the breeze. 
The wind in ' ' J$ to 

murmur, to whisper, &c. 

Incense-breathing. Another com- 


pound epithet. Incense is the smoke 
of perfume, and is therefore properly 
applied in speaking of the breath, 
which issues from the mouth, and 
which looks like smoke, as may be 
seen on a cold morning, or in frosty 
weather. It is here applied to morn- 
ing at it were to a person who is sup- 
posed to breathe a sweet perfume, be- 
cause the morning air is usually 
sweet and refreshing. 

Cock's shrill clarion^ or trum- 

Echoing hornof the huntsman. 


" For them no more the blazing h 

bii; I, 

Or busy housewife ply her evening care : 
No children run to lisp their sire's return, 
Or climb his knees, the envied kiss to share. 

Housewife properly means the wife, 
who takes care of the house ; it some- 
times means a thrifty, carefu] person. 
It is hoped that our young readers 
wiHconSdlt'a dictionary, for the mean- 
ing of such words as they do not clearly 


" Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, 
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke ; 
How jocund did they drive their teama-field ! 
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy 
stroke ! "* 

These three last stanzas point out 
the ohject of the poem, which is to 


26 GRAY'S 


show that death levels all distinctions, 
and that the poor, who were buried 
in this churchyard, had all the feel- 
ings, pains, and pleasures of the rich. 
The poet says, " In yonder church- 
yard, beneath the shade of those elms 
and yew trees, the earth, raised in 
heaps over those graves, points out 
the places where the former inhabi- 
tants of the village sleep in death. 
The morning breeze, that smells 
sweetly, the swallow chirping at the 
eaves of their thatched cottages, the 
crowing of the cock, or the hunts- 
man's horn, shall never again rouse 

them from their bed. No cheerful 

fire shall be again lighted, nor supper 
prepared for them by their careful and 
fond wives ; nor shall their children, 
who have been playing on the green, 

ELEGY. 27 

run home to tell that they see their 
fathers returning from their work/' 


" Let not ambition mock their useful toil, 
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; 
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, 
The short and simple annals of the poor. 

The words " ambition,' and 
" grandeur" are here used to express 
those persons who are ambitious, and 
those who are fond of grandeur ; such 
persons often despise their inferiors, 
and are here called upon by the poet, 
to listen to the " annals of the poor'* 
without derision or contempt. 

Annals. Annal is properly a his- 
tory of each year, during any parti- 
cular period : here it means a his- 

28 GRAY'S 


" The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, 
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, 
Await alike th* inevitable hour ; 
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 

Heraldry. We request our young 
readers' to consult Chambers^ Dic- 
tionary for an explanation, under the 
word arms ; it would take up too 
much room to explain it here. 

Tli inevitable hour the hour of 
death, which cannot be avoided. 

The paths of glory. Life is fre- 
quently represented in poetry, and 
moral writings, as a journey ; and 
the different pursuits of mankind 
are metaphorically called roads, or 
paths, or walks, or ways ; as, the 
road to preferment, the path of ho- 
nour, the walks of the righteous, and 

ELEGY. 29 

the ways of man, are all familiar ex- 
pressions ; and sometimes life is also 
represented as a voyage. An ocean 
of misery, a sea of troubles, the 
stream of favour, the fountain of 
honours, the tide of prosperity, the 
current of affairs, the ebb of favour 
or of fortune, are figurative expres- 
sions that are continually employed 
by orators and poets. 


" Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the 


If mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise, 
Where through the long-drawn aisle and 

fretted vault, 
The pealing- anthem swells the note of praise. 

Impute to these the fault. These 
means those poor persons who have 
only a heap of earth raised over their 

D 3 

30 GRAY'S 

graves, instead of monuments with 
pompous inscriptions. Look in the 
dictionary for trophies and anthem. 

Pealing. This word appears par- 
ticularly poetical, because, though it 
is to be found in Milton and Pope, it 
has not been commonly used as an 
epithet for an organ. A peal of thun- 
der, to ring a peal of bells, are com- 
mon expressions. A peal, means 
properly a succession of loud sounds. 


" Can storied urn, or animated bust, 
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath ? 

/ O 

Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust ? 
Or flattery sooth the dull, cold ear of Death ? 

Storied,- embossed with figures, 
representing some history of the de- 
ceased, as the Barberini vase is sup- 

ELEGY. 31 

posed to be. See the Botanic 

Animated bust. A bust so well 
carved as to appear animated or 

Provoke, in the fourth line, does 
not mean offend, enrage ; but it 
means to call forth, to call back again 
to life. 

The whole of the eleventh stanza, 
though very beautiful in itself, inter- 
rupts the reasoning of the poem: for 
the following verses do not relate to 
it, but to the stanza preceding it. 
Had the place of the 10th and llth 
stanzas been changed, the sense 
would be clearer. Gray seems to 
affect obscurity in many of his 

32 GRAY'S 


" Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid 
Some heart once pregnant with celestial tire; 
Hands, that the rod of empire might have 

Or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre. 

The pride of greatness should not 
disdain the poor ; for it is probable 
that genius and virtue lie buried in 
obscurity, only for want of cultiva- 
tion, or of an opportunity of exerting 

Watid to ecstasy the living lyre. 
The lyre is used metaphorically for 
poetry : true poetry represents human 
passions and feelings as they exist in 
the living soul of man In such 
poetry " they live, they breathe, they 
speak/ 5 * and excite every grada- 

* Pope. 


tion of sentiment, from despair to 


" But knowledge to their eyes her ample 


Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er enrol ; 
Chill penury repress'd their noble rage, 
And froze the genial current of their soul. 

Rage, in the third line, is used 
metaphorically, and means ardour, 
enthusiasm. We speak of raging 
pain, of a raging torrent; indeed, in 
this last year of the century, even 
the fashion of a cap is the rage. 

Genial means whatever is crea- 
tive. We say, the genial spring, the 
genial rays of the sun, genial warmth, 

Current of the soul is also meta- 
phorical ; and penury (poverty) is 


supposed to freeze or repress the 
energy of their minds, and prevent 
their talents and understandings from 
exerting themselves as they might 
have done in other circumstances. 


" Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 
The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear; 
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air. 

Ray serene. Why serene ? Un- 
disturbed is one meaning of serene ; 
clear, because undisturbed. But per- 
haps this epithet was chosen rather 
for the convenience of its rhyme than 
for its peculiar propriety. 

The beauty of the two last lines of 
this stanza has rendered them very 
popular. The meaning of the whole 
stanza is so verv obvious, that I fear 

ELEGY. 35 

to offend my young readers by point- 
ing it out. Genius and virtue some- 
times lie buried and unseen, like 
gems of jewels in the ocean, or like 
flowers in a forest. 


" Some village Hampden, that with dauntless 


The little tyrant of his fields withstood : 
Some mute, inglorious Milton here may rest ; 
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's 


The lives of Hampden, Milton, 
and Cromwell are to be met with in 
every history of England. In But- 
ler's Arithmetic, p. 94-, 2nd edition, my 
young readers will find an account of a 
village Hampden^ who, within these 
few years, withstood an act of pub- 
lic oppression, and had it redressed. 

36 CRAY'S 


" Th* applause of listening senates to 


The threats of pain and ruin to despise, 
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, 
And read their history in a nation's eyes, 


*' Their lot forbade ; nor circumscrib'd 

Their growing virtues, but their crimes 

confin'd ; 
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a 

O O 

And shut the gates of mercy or* mankind; 

And read their history in a nation 's 
eyes. This line is very beautiful. A 
great man, who has been useful to his 
country, reads the grateful sentiments 
of his countrymen in their pleased 
countenances. And that is also 
the meaning of " smiling land." 
It is not the land which appears cheer- 

ELEGY. 37 

ful, but the inhabitants, who have 
received plenty, and enjoy pros- 

Their lot forbade. --These three 
words complete the sense of the 
stanza which precedes them, and 
mean that the humble lot of these 
villagers prevented them from shining 
in the senate, either by their oratory, 
wisdom, or virtue ; and the sense of 
the remaining part of the stanza, is, 
that their obscurity not only circum- 
scribed or confined the extent of their 
virtues, but also prevented their com- 
mitting such great crimes as are the 
consequences of ambition. 

Skut the gates of mercy on man- 
kind. In the Scriptures, opening 
and shutting the gates of Heaven, is 


an expression used to denote the ad- 
mission or rejection of the claims of 
mankind to the favour of the Divinity. 
Shutting the gates of mercy, is not a 
classical allusion ; that is to say, it is 
not an allusion taken from those 
Greek or Latin authors that are called 

To shut the gates of the temple of 
Janus, among the Romans, was an 
emblem of universal peace ; and an 
allusion to this would be called clas- 
sical. Allusions, however, to the 
Sacred writings are often highly beau- 
tiful and impressive. The sublimity 
of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Job, and the 
Psalms, is pointed out with judgment 
and taste in the Spectators. 

ELEGY. 39 


" The struggling pangs of conscious truth 

to hide, 

To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame; 
Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride, 
With incense kindled at the muses' flame. 

The sense in this stanza is also car- 
ried on from that which is before it ; 
and the poet continues to enumerate 
the errors and mean conduct of those, 
who seek for peace by concealing 
their own sense of right and wrong, 
and by flattering the great. 

Shrine, an inclosure, containing 
the figure of some object of worship. 
Heaping the shrine of luxury with 
incense kindled at the muses' flame, 
means, metaphorically, the flattery 
which poets offer to those who live in 

40 GRAY'S 


" Far from the madding crowd's ignoble 


Their sober wishes never learn'd to stiay ; 
Along the cool, sequester'd vale of life, 
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way. 

Ignoble. The poet justly calls the 
usual pursuits of ambition and avarice 
ignoble ; that is, mean and base. 
And he calls those pursuits the 
" ignoble strife/' or mean competition 
of the " madding crowd ;" who fol- 
low ambition and avarice, with an 
eagerness almost equal to madness. 

Their sober wishes never learned to 
stray, never wandered beyond their 
own business. 

Sequester' d vale. Sequestered 
means retired ; and " sequestered 
vale of life/' aji humble situation, 

ELEGY. 4-1 

not raised to the height of grandeur or 

Tenour means a steady course. 

Kept the noiseless tenour of their 
way; pursued a quiet, unnoticed 
course of life. 


" Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect, 
Some frail memorial still erected nigh, 
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture 

Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. 


" Their name, their years, spelt by th' un- 

letter'd muse, 

The place of fame and elegy supply ; 
And many a holy text around she strews, 
That teach the rustic moralist to die. 

E 3 

4-2 GRAY'S 


" For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey, 
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd, 
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, 
Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind? 

The poet seems here to have finish- 
ed the reflections that at first occurred 
to him from the view of the church- 
yard, and to begin a new train of 
thoughts, suggested by the ordinary 
tomb-stones that struck his view. He 
says, even these poor villagers wish 
to have some tokens of their existence 
raised over their graves, of frail or 
perishable materials ; often of wood, 
of rude workmanship, inscribed only 
with their names and ages, in place of 
the pompous inscriptions, and elegiac 
or mournful verses, which are usually 
put upon the monuments of the rich 

ELEGY. 4-3 

and great. Sometimes, he says, the 
tombs of the poor are inscribed with 
texts of Scripture, to teach those who 
read them, the necessity of death, 
and the hopes of another world. For, 
says he, no human being departs 


from life without thinking with fond- 
ness and regret upon some friend, 
whom he leaves behind him in this 
world. And men wish that their 
memory, even after death, should ex- 
cite feelings of tenderness and af- 

Precincts of the cheerful day. 
The word precinct means boundary. 


" On some fond breast the parting soul relies, 
Some pious drops the closing eye requires; 
Even from the tomb the voice of nature 

Even in our ashes live their wonted fires. 

44 GRAY'S 

Parting soul relies /that is, de- 
pends upon some person who was 
fond of them for the last marks of 
kindness, and requires, that is, wants 
the consolation of sympathy from 
those whom they loved. 


Pious drops affectionate tears. 
The original meaning of piety is the 
love of children towards their parents 
It is now used to express the love 
and veneration of mankind towards 

Even in their ashes live their 
wonted Jires. The ancients, instead 
of burying dead bodies in the ground, 
burnt them upon large piles of wood, 
and preserved the ashes of their 
friends in urns. Hence the word 
ashes is frequently used to represent, 
the dead ; and the inscriptions upon 

ELEGY. 40 

the tombs seem to express the feel- 
ings and passions of the dead, and to 
call upon the living for sympathy. 


'* For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonoured 


Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; 
If chance by lonely contemplation led, 
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate. 


" Haply some hoary headed swain may say, 
Oft have we seen him, at the peep of dawn, 
Brushing with hasty steps the dew away, 
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. 


" There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech, 
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, 
His listless length at noontide would he 

And pore upou the brook that bubbles by. 

Kindred spirit.-*- A. person of simi- 
lar disposition. 

46 GRAY'S 

Brushing the dew away brings 
before the mind a picture of early 
morning, when the clear drops of 
dew hang on every blade of grass ; 

Meeting the sun upon the upland 
lawn marks the very moment of 

That wreathes its old fantastic 
roots so high. When trees grow upon 
banks, the earth frequently moulders 
away from their roots, and then the 
roots appear in various twining 
forms, far above the surface of the 
ground where they were planted. 

Listless; Without energy; with- 
out any determinate design. To list, 
means to wish or choose. 

ELEGY. 4-7 

" Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in 

Mutt'ring his wayward fancies, he would 


Now drooping, woful wan, like one forlorn, 
Or crazed with care, or crossed with hopeless 


Wayward, Independent of con- 
trol. Wayward properly means, de- 
sirous of having his own way. 

" One morn I missed him, on the 'custom'd 


Along the heath, and by his fav'rite tree ; 
Another came ; nor yet beside the rill, 
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he. 


The next with dirges due, in sad array, 
Slow through the church-way path we saw 

him borne ; 
Approach, and read (for thou can'st read) 

the lay, 
Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn. 

48 GRAY'S 

Dirges due. Dirge means solemn, 
mournful music ; such as sometimes 
attends funerals. 

Sad array. The funeral proces- 

In these five stanzas, the poet 
speaks of himself He says, if any 
person of a mind similar to his own 
should inquire for the author of these 
lines, perhaps some aged villager will 
point out his tombstone, and desire 
the stranger to read his epitaph, and 
will tell him all that was known of 
him in the neighbourhood ; will tell 
him, that he was often seen wander- 
ing at an early hour through the 
fields, or resting under the shade of 
an aged beech, in careless slumber, 
sometimes looking with seeming ear- 
nestness upon the passing stream ; 

ELEGY. 49 

sometimes rambling near a neighbour- 
ing wood, expressing the thoughts 
and fancies of his mind in his coun- 
tenance, and speaking to himself; 
sometimes smiling indignantly, some- 
times moping in melancholy. One 
morning he was absent from his usual 
haunts ; two days passed without his 
appearing under his favourite tree. 
On the third, his funeral was seen 
passing by ; and here, says the ancient 
villager, speaking to the stranger, 
who is supposed to be inquiring for 
the poet, here are his tomb and 
epitaph : 

" Here rests his head, upon the lap of earth, 
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown ; 
Fair science frown'd not on his humble birth, 
And melancholy marked him for her own. 



" Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, 
Heav'n did a recompence as largely send ; 
He gave to mis'ry all he had, a tear; 
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd): 
a friend. 

" No farther seek his merits to disclose^ 
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode-, 
(There they alike in trembling hope repose) 
The bosom of his father and his God. 

The epitaph is obscure. The sense j 
is as follows : Here lies buried, a 
youth of humble birth and fortune,, 
not ignorant of science, but of a 
melancholy mind ; he had a generous 
heart, though he had but little beside 
compassion to bestow ; Heaven re- 
compensed his good intentions by 
bestowing upon him a true friend.* 
Seek no farther into his history; what- 

* Mr. Mason. 


ever were his faults or merits, they 
were known to God, whose sentence 
on the great day of retribution he 
waits in hope, mixed with holy fear. 


IN this poem, and that which fol- 
lows, the passions are continually 
personified, or spoken of as if they 
were persons, or as heathen deities. 

" Hence loathed Melancholy, 
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born, 

In Stygian cave forlorn ; 
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and bights 

Find out some uncouth cell, 


Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous 


And the ni^ht raven sings: 

O O 7 

There under ebon shades and iow-brovv'd rocks, 

As ragged as thy locks, 
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell." 

" Fly hence, hateful Melancholy ! 
thou offspring of the dog Cerberus ; 
born in some lonely cave, upon 
the banks of Styx, in the midst of 
monsters and dismal screams. Go 
and dwell, far from me, in the Cim- 
merian desert, under the shadow of 
rocks that hang down in separate 
crags, divided like thy black and 
parted locks/ 3 

Stygian belonging to Styx, the 
river of Hell. This river was sup- 
posed to divide the infernal (lower) 
regions- The gods swore by Styx ; 


and such an oath was considered as 
irrevocable, even by Jupiter. 

Cimmerian desert. Cimmeria 

was that part of ancient Scythia, 
which is on the Palus Meotis, and 
is now called the Crimea. The name 
of Krim, or Crimea, may be a cor- 
ruption of the ancient name Cim- 
meria. This part of the world is 
represented by the ancients as a cold 
and dreary desert, covered with black 
and gloomy forests. 

" But come thou goddess fa'r and free, 
In Heaven yclep'd, Euphrosyne, 
And by men, heart-easing Mirth, 
Whom lovely Venus, at a birth, 
With two sister-graces more, 

o * 

To ivy- crowned Bacchus bore : 

Or whether (as some sages sing) 

The frolic Wind that breathes the spring, 

F 3 


Zephyr, with Aurora playing, 

As he met her once a maying, 

There on beds of violets blue, 

And fresh-blown roses washed in dew, 

Filled her with thee a daughter fair, 

So buxom, blithe, and debonaire. 

" But comethou fair and free god- 
dess ycleped (called) in heaven Eu- 
phrosyne, and known among men by 
the name of Mirth, come hither. 
Thou art, as some suppose, descend- 
ed from Bacchus and Venus, and 
thou art one of the sister Graces : or 
as others think, thou art sprung from 
Zephyr, the frolic or playful western 
wind, which blows in the spring of 
the year, and Aurora the goddess of 
the dawn." 

The young reader will observe, that 
as these are the fictitious or allegori- 

1/ALLEGRO. 55 

1 cal parents of Mirth, the pue mieans 
to point out, that Mirth is found by 
some to arise at convivial meetings 


from the exhilarating effects of wine, 
of which Bacchus was the deity ; and 
that it arises amongst others (who 
are wiser) from exercise and from the 
healthful breezes of early morning, 
Zephyr and Aurora. 

Milton seems particularly fond of 
early morning : he says elsewhere, 

" Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet 
With charm of earliest birds.'* 

Euphrosyne, Thalia, and Aglae, the 
three graces. Thalia is the name of 
one of the muses, as well as of one of 
the graces. 

Buxom, obedient, yielding with 
" Winnows the buxom air." PAR. LOST. 


Blithe. Softly-gay. 

Debonair e. Neatly-graceful. 

Many words which were used by 
good writers in the time of Milton 
would not be suitable to modern con- 
versation or writing. 

Buxom is now commonly appli- 
ed to persons of the lower order ; a 
buxom lass means a strong healthy 

Blithe^ is seldom used except in 

Debonair e (which in French ori- 
ginally means, of a good air and 
manner) is now generally used in "a 
sense rather ludicrous; we say a 
smart debonaire fellow, in opposi- 
tion to slovenly, and inferior to well- 


" Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee, 
Jest, and youthful Jollity ; 
Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles, 
Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Smiles, 
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek, 
And love to live in dimple sleek ; 
Sport, that wrinkled Care derides, 
And Laughter, holding both his sides. 

" Make haste, thou cheerful nymph, 
Euphrosyne, and bring with thee jest, 
jollity, quips, cranks, wiles, nods, 
becks, and smiles such smiles as 
are seen on the cheek of Hebe, the 
goddess of youth, the attendant of 
the gods such smiles as we see in 
the dimpled cheeks of beauty. Bring 
also with you Sport and Laughter, 
who appears holding his sides, lest 
they should burst with merriment/ 1 
Of these imaginary and allegorical 


persons, some are at present scarcely 
to be met with. 

Quips, were severe jibes that 
excited laughter. 

Cranks. Puns, or ludicrous mean- 
ings given to phrases. 

Becks. Reckonings, such as pass 
between persons in play. 

Wreathed-smiles. The muscles of 
the face seem to take a circular or 
curling form when we smile. 

In these lines, Jest, Jollity, Quips, 
&c. &c. are introduced as persons 
who accompany Mirth, not as quali- 
ties of her mind. 

" Come, and trip it as you go 

On the light, fantastic toe, 

And in thy right hand lead with thee, 

The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty : 


And if I give thee honour due, 
Mirth, admit me of thy crew 
To live with her, and live with thee, 
In un reproved pleasures free ; 
To hear the lark begin his flight, 
And, singing, startle the dull Night, 
From his watch-tower in the skies, 
Till the dappled dawn doth rise, 
And then to come, in spite of sorrow, 
And at my window bid good morrow, 
Through the sweetbriar, or the vine, 
Or the twisted eglantine. 

" Come, O goddess of Mirth, dancing 
lightly with fanciful steps, and lead 
the mountain nymph, Liberty, in 
your right hand, and permit me, who 
honour you, to accompany you, and 

to live with that goddess and with 
you, and to enjoy every blameless 
pleasure ; to hear the lark begin the 
day, seeming to startle Night from 


her repose before the dawn of the 
morning ; and then let him come to 
my window, through the sweet-briar, 
the vine, or the eglantine, which 
surround it, as if he meant to wish 
me good morrow !' : 

The mountain nymph, sweet Liber- 
ty, Milton calls Liberty a moun- 
tom-nymph, because the inhabitants 
of mountainous countries have usu- 
ally been more attached to their liber- 
ties, and have preserved them longer, 
than those who live in towns or in flat 
countries. The ancient Britons in 
Wales, the people of Switzerland, 
and many others, may be pointed out 
as examples. 

Of thy crew, means, of thy com- 
pany, or followers. 

To live with her, and live with 


thee. By her is meant Liberty ; and 
bythee, Mirth. 

And, singing i startle the dull 
night. This is a beautiful line : the 
shrill note of the lark is here sup- 
posed to waken the night. 

Eglantine, is now another name 
for that species of rose which is usu- 
ally called sweetbriar. It is probable 
that formerly the name eglantine 
belonged to some other species of 

" Whilst the cock, with lively din, 
Scatters the rear of darkness thin, 
And to the stack, or the barn-door, 
Stoutly struts his dames before. 

" Whilst the crowing cock seems 
to dispel the darkness as he struts 
before his hens from their roost to the 



barn-door, or the corn-stack, to pick 
up food. 

Din. Noise. 

At that hour, when the lively 
crowing of the cock chaces away all 
the inhabitants of darkness. 

Popular superstition had formerly 
a thousand foolish notions, that are 
now almost forgotten amongst the 
people, though they still furnish 
images to poets. The vulgar be- 
lieved that there existed fairies, and 
goblins, and ghosts, which were 
sometimes to be seen at night, but 
never in the day-time ; and they sup- 
posed, that when the cock crew in 
the morning, all these inhabitants 
of night were banished. 

The rear of darkness, perhaps 
means the rear of the troops of thin 


ghosts, which were abroad in the 
dark. Ghosts were supposed to be 
figures, or something that appeared 
like figures, without solid substance, 
like mists, which may be faintly seen, 
but not felt. 

" Oft listening how the hounds and horn, 


Cheerly rouse the slumb'ring morn 
From the side of some hoar hill, 
Through the high wood echoing shrill ; 
Sometime walking, not unseen, 
By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green, 
Right against the eastern gate, 
Where the great sun begins his state, 
Rob'd in flames, and amber light, 
The clouds in thousand liv'ries dight ; 
While the ploughman, near at hand, 
Whistles o'er the furrow'd land, 
And the milkmaid singeth blithe, 
And the mower whets his sithe, 
And eV'ry shepherd tells his tale, 
Under the hawthorn in the dale. 


" Often, in the early morning, 
let me listen to the hounds and 
huntsmen, who seem to waken the 
day with their cheerful horns ; echo- 
ed from the frosty side of some lofty 
hill, or heard shrilly sounding through 
the woods. Sometimes may I walk 
amongst workmen in the fields, by 
hedge-rows planted with elms, and 
over green hillocks, towards the east, 
where the glorious sun begins his 
daily course, robed in amber colour- 
ed flame, and attended by clouds 
adorned with liveries of a thousand 
beautiful colours. Whilst the plough- 
man whistles at his work, and the 
milk-maid sings as she milks, and 
the cheerful noise of the mower is 
heard whetting his scithe, and when 
the shepherd sits under a hawthorn 


bush, conversing tenderly with some 
favourite shepherdess/ 3 

Oft Ksfnmgt refers to the be- 
ginning of the last paragraph, and 
means, " After the crowing of the 
cock, let me go abroad, and listen to 
the hounds and huntsmen/' &c. &c. 

Not unseen. Some critics think 
that this should bej wander out un- 
seen ; and they account for the mis- 
take by supposing that the u in out 
was in the first printed copy an n, 
which was inverted by accident (a cir- 
cumstance that frequently happens 
in printing) : and that the succeeding 
printer, not knowing what to do with 
ont, had turned it into not. But I 
rather think Milton intended that it 
should be not unseen^ from this line 

in II Penseroso, 



'* And missing thee, I walk unseen 
Oil the dry smooth shaven green." 

Walking in the view of others is 
suited to L'Allegro, walking unseen 
to II Penseroso. 

Rig/it against the eastern gate. 
Opposite to the rising sun. Gray, 
in the Country Church-yard, says, 

" To meet the sun upon yon upland lawn." 

Dight.~- Dressed in a thousand 
different colours. 

Liveries, to modern ears seems 
rather a mean allusion ; but formerly 
it conveyed the same meaning as uni- 
form does to us. 

" Straight mine eye hath caught new plea- 

While the landscape round, it measures ; 
Russet lawns, and fallows gray, 
Where the nibbling flocks do stray ; 


Mountains, on whose barren breast 
The lub'ripg clouds do often rest; 
Meadows trim, with daisies pied, 
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide. 
Towers and battlements it sees, 
Bosom'd high in tufted trees, 
Where perhaps some beauty lies, 
The cynosure of neigh!)' ring eyes. 

44 Mine eye catches new pleasures, 
as it surveys the landscape ; it sees 
brown fields and gray fallows, where 
the sheep stray and bite the short 
grass ; it sees barren mountains, upon 
the sides of which the clouds seem to 
rest ; meadows decked with pied or 
many-coloured daisies, and narrow 
streams and wide rivers ; it sees 
towers and their battlements, that 
seem to be in the bosom of tufted 
groves, where perhaps some beauty 
lives retired who attracts the eyes of 


all the swains by the brightness of 
her charms, as the bright dog-star is 
conspicuous in the heavens/ 5 

The poet here drops the idea of 
being led by Mirth and Liberty; and 
he speaks of what appears before 
his eyes as he walks abroad in the 


Russet lawns. Brown lawns, 
dried up by the sun. 

Labouring clouds. Low clouds 
driven slowly by the winds, when 
they meet with high mountains seem 
to labour in rolling over them, and 
may seem to rest when stopped in 
their passage. 

Meadows that appear trim or dressed 
with or pied, with many coloured 

Cynosure. The pole-star, which 


directs sailors by night, was by the 
ancients called cynosure^ or dog-star. 
The poet here rather awkwardly calls 
a beauty, upon whom the neighbour- 
ing villagers turn their eyes, their 
pole star. 

** Hard by a cottage chimney smokes, 
From betwixt two aged oaks, 
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met, 
Are at their savoury dinner set, 
Of herbs and other country messes, 
Which the neat-handed Phyllis dresses ; 
And then in haste her bower she leaves, 
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves; 
Or if the earlier season lead 
To the tanned havcock in the mead. 


" The smoke of a cottage chimney 
rises between two oaks, where the 
farmers, Thyrsis and Corydon, are at 


dinner, upon some conn try fare, which 
labour makes delicious. Phyllis, their 
neat and useful companion, when she 
has prepared their dinner, goes in 
haste with Thestylis, to bind the 
sheaves of corn, or to make hay, if it 
is earlier in the summer. This repre- 
sents the middle of the day. 

" Sometimes with secure delight, 
The upland hamlets will invite ; 
"When the merry bells ring round, 
And the jocund rebecs sound, 
To many a youth and many a maid, 
Dancing in the checker'd shade, 
And young and old come forth to play 
On a sunshine holiday. * 

"At other times I walk to the vil- 
lages on the neighbouring hills, on a 
holiday, when the bells ring merrily ; 


when, in the evening, under the 
moving shadows of the trees, the 
village lads and maidens dance to 


the cheerful riddle. 

The rebeck. Properly a fiddle 
with three strings. 

We may observe here, that Milton 
selects such words in his descriptions 
as are not in vulgar use : 

" Till the livelong day-light fail, 

Then to the spicy nut-brown ale, 

With stories told of many a feat, 

How fairy Mab the junkets eat; 

She was pinch'd and pull'd, she said ; 

And he by friar's lantern led ; 

Tells how the drudging goblin swet 

To earn his cream-bowl duly set, 

When in one night, ere glimpse of morn, 

His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn 

That ten day-lab'rers could not end ; 

Then lies him down the lubber fiend, 


And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length, 
Basks at the fire his hairy strength, 
And cropfull out of doors he flings, 
Ere the first cock his matin ring's. 


Thus done the tales, to bed they creep, 
By whisp'ring winds soon lulled asleep. 

" Till the day-light fails they dance, 

and then they retire to some cottage, 

to refresh themselves with ale, while 

they listen to the stories of Mab, 

queen of the fairies, who carried off 

some dainty which had been laid by. 

One of the maidens tells how she 

was pinched and pulled by the fairies; 

whilst a young man relates how he 

was led astray by Will o'the YFhisp; 

or tells how a drudging goblin, to 

earn a bowl of cream that had been 

left for him, threshed, in one night, 

with his unsubstantial flail, more 

than ten men could have threshed ; 


and how, after his labour, the strong 
and hairy fiend stretched himself be- 
fore the fire, till, roused by the crow- 
ing of the cock, he hurries out of 
doors when the lads and lasses are 
tired of listening to these stories, they 
creep fearfully to bed, where they 
are soon lulled to sleep by the mur- 
muring wind/' 


Junket is another name for soft 
curds ; and it \vas so much used as a 
treat by the country people, that, 
from it, their meetings and merry 
makings have been called jimkcttings. 

Fuseli has made beautiful pictures 
of these goblins, of the fairy Mab, 
and the lubbar fiend, conceived in the 
true spirit of the poet his picture of 
twilight is admirable. 

Fryar's Lantern, or Will-o'-the- 



Wisp, is a meteor, which is sponta- 
neously kindled in the atmosphere 
near graves and marshy places, where 
hydrogen or inflammable air is gene- 
rated. This light flame, which lasts 

a verv short time, follows the current 


of the air, and is suddenly extin- 
guished. Formerly these meteors 
terrified the vulgar ; but knowledge 
of all sorts has been so much dissem- 
inated by the art of printing, that 
these vain terrors exist scarcely any 
where except in remote places. 

Another strange legend or old story, 
which was formerly current in the 
country, was, that if a bowl of cream 
was laid in a barn for a certain fairy, 
he w r ould come by night and thresh 
a large quantity of corn ; and when 
he was tired, would lie down before 


the fire in the house, till the cock 

The word lubbar is here used to 
express the clumsy size of the fiend. 
Lubbar commonly means lazy per- 
haps it may here mean tired. 

Cropfall is a term appropriate to 
poultry. It here means full to the 
throat with the cream that had been 
set for him. 

" Tow' red cities please us then, 
And the busy hum of men, 
Where throngs of knights and barons b^ 
In weeds of peace, high triumphs hold. 
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes 
Rain influence, and judge the prize 
Of wit or arms, while both contend, 
To win her grace, whom all commend. 
There let Hymen oft appear 
In safiYou robe, and taper clear, 


And pomp, and feast, and revelry, 
With mask, and antique pageantry ; 
Such sights as youthful poets dream 
On summer eves, by haunted stream. 

" Then we seek the pleasures of the 
city, where knights and barons hold 
splendid assemblies ; where ladies, 
from the influence of their charms, 
are appealed to as judges, in contests 
both of wit and arms ; while the can- 
didates for either prizes endeavour to 
win the favour of her who is consi- 
dered as superior to the rest. 

" In these assemblies may Hymen, 
the God of Marriage, be often pre- 
sent, drest in saffron-coloured robes, 
and carrying his nuptial torch, burn- 
ing with bright and auspicious flame, 
accompanied by pomp, and feast and 
merriment ; with masks and splendid 

1/ALLEGRO. 77 

shows, such as were anciently repre- 
sented, and attended with every plea- 
sure that youthful pride and poetic 
imagination can dream of, while re- 
posing in summer evenings by the 
side of some haunted stream. 5 

Milton now quits the country, 
where the tired peasant early goes to 
i;est ; and he describes the revels and 
amusements of cities, which usually 
begin at a late hour. 

Weeds of peace. Weeds formerly 
meant any kind of dress ; but is now 
confined to the mourning dresses 
of widows, which are called their 

The poet seems to forget himself 
a little, when he speaks of adjudging 
a prize both of wit and arms at a 
midnight assembly. Perhaps h<i 

H 3 


means a change of time, as well as 
of scene. In the days of chivalry, 
and even as late as the reign of queen 
Elizabeth, justs, tilts, and tourna- 
ments were common amusements. 
They were warlike games, in which 
young men contended for superiority, 
with strength and address. A large 
space was inclosed with a strong rail, 
called the barrier or lists : this space 
w r as surrounded by seats for the spec- 
tators, one of which in particular 
was raised higher than the rest, for 
the judges. 

The knights who contended \vere 
covered from head to foot with defen- 
sive iron armour. They were mount- 
ed upon strong steeds, covered partly 
with armour, and partly with hous- 
ings beautifully embroidered with 


gold and various colours. On these 
housings and on their shields were 
displayed the devices or arms of 
the knights, to which custom it is 
said, but not with certainty, that 
heraldry owes its origin. The 
knights, on horseback, rode against 
each other with blunted lances, which 
were usually broken in the onset ; 
they sometimes fought, or seemed to 
fight with blunted swords. These 
sports how r ever frequently ended 
fatally. Henry the second of France 
was killed by count Montgomery at 
a tournament 

At these trials of courage and 
address, some lady remarkable for 
birth or beauty presided ; she was 
attended by two ladies as maids or 
assistants : and the successful chain- 


pion or knight, when the prize was 
adjudged to him, came before the 
seat of honour, and, taking off his 
helmet, made low obeisance to the 
lady of the tournament. This is 
alluded to in the lines, 

" While both contend 

To win her grace, whom all commend.'* 

" Then to the well-trod stage anon, 
If Jonson's learned sock be on, 
Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child, 
Warble his native wood-notes wild. 

" Then let me frequent the stage, 
if the learned plays of Ben Jonson 
are represented, or those of Shak- 
speare, the child of nature, whose 
poetry, like the wild notes of sweet 
birds, is unrestrained by rules of 


Learned sock. The ancient actors, 
when they represented tragedies, 
wore buskins ; when they appeared 
in comedies they w r ore a kind of 
sandal, or half shoe, buckled on with 
leathern straps, and called a sock : 
hence the sock means comedy, and 
the buskin tragedy. 

Anon means soon. 

Milton here pays a just compli- 
ment to Ben Jonson and Shakspeare. 
Jonson's, as well as Milton's poetry, 
abounds with allusions to the an- 
cients, and is full of abstruse learn- 

Shakspeare, though far from igno- 
rant, followed nature, both in his 
descriptions of external objects, and 
in his delineations of human charac- 
ters and passions. 


Jorison was probably preferred 
by his contemporaries ; but Shak- 
speare has deservedly become the 
favourite, though not the principal 
poet of the English nation. It is 
singular that Milton, who, like 
Jonson, abounded in the learning of 

his ag^e, was neglected bv his con- 

temporaries, and yet has since been 
placed at the head of English classic 
literature by Dryden ; 

" Three poets, in three distant ages born, 
Greece, Italy and England did adorn, 
Homer in loftiness of thought surpass'd, 
Virgil in majesty, in both the last." 

" And ever against eating cares, 
Lap me in soft Lydiuu aii s, 
Married to immortal verse, 
Such as the meeting soul may pierce, 


In notes with many a winding bout 
Of linked sweetness long drawn out, 
With wanton heed and giddy cunning, 
The melting voice through mazes running, 
Untwisting all the chains that tie 
The hidden soul of harmony ; 
That Orpheus 'self may heave his head 
From orolden slumbers on the bed 


Of heap'd Elysian flowers, and hear 
Such strains as would have won the ear 
Of Pluto, to have quite set free 
His half-regain'd Euridice. 

" And, to prevent the effects of 
care, let me hear divine poetry, set 
to soft music, such as may sink into 
the soul, whose lengthened notes, con- 
nected by a secret correspondence of 
sound, and conducted by concealed 
skill, seem to wander in inextricable 
mazes, letting loose as it were the 
very soul of harmony ; such music as 


might waken Orpheus from his slum- 
bers on a bed of flowers in Elysium, 
and might delight him with such 
strains as would have charmed Pluto, 
to have given back entirely his Euri- 
dice, who had been but half restored 
to him." 

Lydian airs. The Lydians were 
a nation much addicted to pleasure, 
and particularly to the pleasure of 
music. It is said that a certain king 
of Lydia, during a famine, instituted 
public games to divert the calls of 

Milton, to fill up the measure of 
innocent amusement and cheerful- 
ness, celebrates the charms of music 
joined to poetry: 

" Many a winding bout 

Of linked sweetness long drawn out.'* 


In these lines he alludes to the har- 
monic dependance of musical notes, 
which he compares to the links of a 
long and intricate chain, which, by 
the art of the composer, seems to be 
disentangled, to the ear of the skilful 

Heed. Attention, care. 

Cunning was formerly used for 
skill. Cunning workmen, in the Old 
Testament, means skilful workmen. 

Milton here means to describe mu- 
sic that appears wild and artless, 
whilst, in reality, it is constructed 
with deep attention to the laws of 

Golden slumbers. Golden is a 
strong metaphor ; but it is frequently 
applied to things seemingly discord- 
ant, as golden rule, golden verses of 



Pythagoras, golden dreams, or to 
any thing valuable. 

The story of Orpheus and Euri- 
dice is too well known to require an 
explanation. The poet means to 
give the preference to modern music 
when he says, 

" Such strains as would have won the ear 
Of Pluto, to have quite set free 
His half-regain' d Euridice." 

" These delights if thou canst give, 
Mirth, with thee I mean to live." 

" If, O goddess of mirth ! thou 
canst give such delights as these, I 
mean to be thy votary, and to live 
with thee." 

The poet thus concludes, promis- 
ing only a conditional worship to the 
goddess of cheerfulness. 


In the next poem he decides that 
divine Melancholy really confers the 
pleasures which she promises, and to 
her he devotes himself. 



THE following account of the 
origin and design of this poem is 
taken from Newton's Notes on 
Milton : 

" II Penseroso is the thoughtful, 
melancholy man ; and Mr. Thyer 
concurred with me in observing, that 
this poem, both in its model and 
principal circumstances, is taken from 
a song in praise of melancholy, in 


Fletcher's comedy, called " The 
Nice Valour, or Passionate Man/ J 
The reader will not be displeased to 
see it here, as it is well worth tran- 
scribing : 

" Hence, all you vain delights, 
As short as are the nights, 

Wherein you spend your folly ; 
There's nought in this life sweet, 
If man were wise to see't, 

But only melancholy, 

Sweetest melancholy. 
Welcome folded arms and fixed eyes, 
A sigh, that piercing mortifies, 
A look that's fasten'd to the ground, 
A tongue chain'd up, without a sound, 
Fountain heads and pathless groves, 
Places which pale Passion loves, 
Moon-light walks, when all the fowls 
Are warmly hous'd, save bats and owls ; 

A midnight bell, a parting groan, 

These are the sounds we feed upon ; 


Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy- 
valley ; 
Nothing's so dainty, sweet, as lovely 



Milton begins the Allegro in praise 
of mirth by exclaiming, 

" Hence, loathed Melancholy !" 

He begins the Penseroso in a simi- 
lar manner ; 

"Hence, vain, deluding joys 

So that either of the poems might 
with equal propriety have been the 
first. It is however discernible that 
Milton preferred the melancholy ; 
and his conclusion to the poem puts 
it out of doubt. 

" Hence, vain, deluding joys ! 

The brood of folly, without father bred, 
How little you bested, 

Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys ; 

I 5 


Dwell in some idle brain, 

And fancies fond with gaudy shapes 

As thick and numberless 

As the gay motes that people the sun- 
Or likeliest hovering dreams, 

The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.'* 

44 Begone, ye vain joys of Mirth ! 
ye are the brood or offspring of Folly, 
spontaneously produced. Of how 
little profit are ye, and how far are 
you from engaging the 4 fixed/ the 
steady mind, with all your worth- 
less pleasures ! Go, Mirth, and fill 
some idle mind, and crowd fancies 
that are inclined to you with gaudy 
imaores, as numerous as the motes 

O ' 

that appear in the beams of the sun, 
or as numerous as the varying dreams 
that attend on sleep." 


Toys mean not only the play- 
things of children, but whatever 
amuses the mind, at any age. 

Bested comes from stead, which 
means place ; instead, in the place 
of, bestead, to be of service in 
place of something else. 

And fancies fond with gaudy 
shapes possess. Possess sometimes 
means, as in the New Testament, 
to subdue under the power of some 
demon ; and here Milton invokes 
Euphrosyne to fill the foolish mind 
with demons of the various forms, 
which delusive Mirth assumes. 

As the gay motes that people the 
sim-beams. When the rays of the 
sun pass through any opening into a 
dark room, the light dust, which 
floats in the atmosphere, becomes 


visible, and as it is put in motion by 
the air which rushes into that part of 
the room, which is heated by the 
sun, the motes^ or small particles of 
dust, seem to dance in the sun- 

Tliejickle pensioners of Morpheus' 
train. Morpheus w r as the god of 
dreams, which the poet calls his 
pensioners, because they depend 
upon him, and fickle, because dreams 
vary continually, and are seldom 
steady and uniform. 

* Whoever observes these motes will see that they 
consist of various materials; short threads of linen, 
cotton, silk, and particularly of woollen cloth, arc 
mixed with rounder particles of dust, worn away and 
formed from different materials This is certainly not 
a proper place to analyse dust and motes ; but what- 
ever sets the young 1 mind at work to examine common 
objects cannot be useless. 



" But hail, thou goddess sage and holy, 
Hail divinest Melancholy, 

* * 

Whose saintly image is too bright 

To hit the sense of human sight, 

And therefore to our \veaker view 

O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue, 

Black, but such as in esteem 

Prince Memnon's sister might beseem, 

Or that starr'd Ethiop queen that strove 

To set her beauty's praise above 

The sea-nymphs, and their pow'rs offended ; 

Yet thou art higher far descended, 

Thee, bright hair'd Vesta, long of yore, 

To solitary Saturn bore, 

His daughter she (in Saturn's reign 

Such mixture was not held a stain) 

Oft in glimmering bow'rs and glades, 

He met her, and in secret shades 

Of woody Ida's inmost grove, 

While yet there was no fear of Jove." 

" But hail, thou holy goddess. 
Melancholy, whose splendor would 
dazzle the weak eyes of mortals, were 


it not covered with a veil and robes 
of black, which is the favourite colour 
of Wisdom ; not common mourning 
robes, but of such rich hue as might 
suit the sister of Memnon, or Cas- 
siope, who offended the sea-nymphs 
by comparing herself to them in 
beaut v ; but thou art descended from 


higher parentage than either Mem- 
non's sister or Cassiope ; for thou 
art sprung from solitary Saturn, and 
bright-haired Vesta, in the shades of 
Ida, before the reign of Jupiter.'' 

" Too bright 

To hit the sense of human si^ht." 


To hit means to suit, or be fit 

Prince Memnon 7 s sister. Who 
this sister of Memnon was, who 
wore such rich mourning, we are not 


distinctly informed. Memnon, the 
son of Tithonus and Aurora, was 
killed by Achilles, at the siege of 
Troy. Ovid tells us that he was 
transformed into a bird, and that he 
had sisters of the same species, who 
celebrated his funeral every year ; but 
we are not told that these birds were 
black : though Milton was peculiarly 
learned in heathen mythology, it is 
not impossible that he might quote 
from memory, and fall into mistakes. 
In Newton's edition of this poet, it 
is su2f2:ested that in the second line 

oo ' 

of the Allegro, Erebus might have 
been intended, instead of Cerberus ; 
and here perhaps mother should be 
read instead of sister ; for though 
it does not appear that Memnon had 
any sister whose sorrows have been 


recorded, we are told in Ovid, that 
the grief of his mother Aurora was 
such, as to change her usual rosy 
saffron tint into a dark purple. 

That starred Ethiop queen. Cas- 
siope, who offended the nereids, or 
sea-nymphs, by vying with them in 
beauty ; Neptune, at the request of 
the nymphs, punished her, by chain- 
ing her daughter Andromeda to a 
rock, to be devoured by a sea-mon- 
ster. Perseus delivered her from the 
monster, and married her ; and Cas- 
siope (sometimes called Cassiopea) 
was, after her death, transformed 
into a constellation, or collection of 
stars, called Cassiopea' s chair ; hence 
she is called starred queen. 


" Come, pensive nun, devout and pure, 
Sober, stedfast, and demure, 
All in a robe of darkest grain, 
Flowing with majestic train, 
And sable stole of Cyprus lawn; 
O'er thy decent shoulders drawn ; 
Come, but keep thy wonted state, 
With even step and musing gait, 
And looks commercing with the skies, 
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes, 
There held in holy passion still 
Forget thyself to marble, till, 
With a sad leaden downward cast, 
Thou fix them on the earth as fast." 

" Come ! pensive as a nun, devout, 
pure, sober, stedfast, and demure*. 
Come, drest in robes of deepest 
black, that flow majestically, treading 
with measured steps, and contem- 

* Demure was formerly used as a term of praise ; 
it is now used to express affected gravity, 



plating the skies, as if thou heldest 
intelligence with Heaven, thy whole 
soul seeming to be collected in thine 


eyes : in this attitude thou seemest 
to have forgotten thine existence, and 
to have become as motionless as a 
statue, till, after a length of time, 
thine eyes slowly turn from Heaven 
to earth, where they remain (as if 
weighed down with lead) heavily 
fixed upon the ground. 

Darkest grain. Dying in grain is 
dying the article before it is manu- 
factured ; by which the stuff is pene- 
trated through and through with the 

Sable stole. Black robe; Melan- 

* Some colours to be rendered perfect are first 
reduced into grains, or small pieces; this gives one 
meaning to the expression, dying in grain 5 but the 


choly is represented as having a black 
stole of Cypress lawn thrown over 
her other robes ; such lawn as is used 
at funerals. The ancients made sta- 
tues of their gods of the wood of this 
name ; and formerly Cypress wood 
was used for coffins, as it is remark- 
ably durable. Cypress trees were 
planted in churchyards ; and the 
Cypress in general was an emblem 
of mourning ; it is said by some, that 
Cypress lawn means such lawn as 
was made in the island of Cyprus. 
Wonted slate. Accustomed pomp. 

popular meaning- is taken from the idea of the colours 
passing 1 through the threads of the stuft'. 

When we look at wood, we perceive the longitudinal 
course of the fibres ; that is to say, their course length- 
\\avs, and we call this, the grain of the wood. When 

/ / o 

we look at stuffs, Sic. we see the course of th 

<, which we also call the yraiu. 



Looks commercing. Holding com- 
merce, or intercourse with Heaven. 

Holy passion.- Passion properly 
means an effect produced by action ; 
here it means an extraordinary state 
of the mind, excited by internal feel- 
ing to a species of enthusiastic transe 
or suspension of motion, in which 
the usual motions of the limbs and 
features seem suspended. 

" And join with thee calm Peace, and Quiet, 
Spare Fast that oft with gods doth diet, 
And hears the muses in a ring 
Aye round about Jove's altar sing, 
And add to these retired Leisure, 
That in trim gardens takes his pleasure; 
But first and chiefest with thee bring 
Him that yon soars on golden wing, 
Guiding the fierv-wheeled throne. 

O / 

The cherub Contemplation." 


*' Arid as thou approachest, bring 
with thee Peace, Quiet, and (spare) 
lean Fast, who (meaning Fast> or 
fasting) diets or feeds with the gods, 
and hears the muses sing (aye) 
always round the altar of Jupiter ; 
and bring also with thee Leisure, 
freedom from worldly care, that 
delights in ornamented (and perhaps 
in ornamenting) gardens ; but, above 
all, bring with thee yonder cherub 
Contemplation, that mounts on 
golden wings, guiding the fiery 

Spare Fast is represented as hear- 
ing the muses chaunting round the 
altar of Jupiter. It has been ob- 
served, that those who have persisted 
in severe fasting have been liable to 
reveries and disorders of the imagina- 

K 3 


tion ; here the poet means to speak 
of fasting as favourable to poetic 

Guiding thejiery-wheeled throne. 
Milton does not tell what throne, but 
he seems to intend the throne of God. 
In the first chapter of Ezekiel there 
is a most sublime description of the 
throne of God supported by four 
living forms resembling men ; they 
are no where called cherubs. Con- 
templation guiding the throne of 
Providence is not an incongruous 


image, though Newton seems to 
think so in his note on this passage. 
If Milton had Ezekiel in his thoughts 
when he wrote this passage, it shows 
that in writing from memory he was 
sometimes inaccurate. 


" And the mute Silence hist along, 
Less Philomel will deign a song, 
In her sweetest saddest plight, 
Smoothing the rugged brow of Night, 


While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke, 
Gently o'er th' accustom'd oak." 

44 And bring Silence (hist) hushed, 
along with thee ; silence that shall 
not be broken, except by (Philomel) 
the nightingale, singing in her most 
mournful strain, whose song softens 
the horrors of night, and charms the 
moon that seems to pause over the 
oak, where thou art used to sing/ J 

Deign. Condescend. 

Saddest plight. Plight means 

Smoothing the rugged brow of 
Night. This is a forced metaphor ; 
it means, that the song of the 


nightingale pleases Night, and makes 
her brow free from the wrinkles of 

While Cynthia checks her dragon 
yoke. Cynthia, Diana, and Hecate, 
are names for the moon : she is repre- 
sented, particularly in the character 
of Hecate, as drawn by dragons who 
were supposed to be sleepless. 

The word yoke means in this place, 
not the harness, but the animals which 
draw the chariot ; the word yoke has 
frequently this meaning ; a yoke of 
oxen means two oxen. 

*< Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly, 
Most musical, most melancholy ! 
Thee, channtress, oft the woods among 1 
I woo to hear thy even-song, 
And missing thee, I walk unseen, 
the dry smooth shaven green, 


To behold the wand'ring moon 
Riding near her highest noon, 
Like one that had been led astray, 
Through the heav'ns wide pathless way, 
And oft, as if her head she bow'd, 
Stooping through a fleecy cloud." 

Here the poet breaks from his sub- 
ject, and, abandoning the description 
of Melancholy, he exclaims in praise 
of his favourite nightingale, " Sweet 
bird that avoidest the noise of day 
and the folly of mankind, and singest 
by night in such musical and melan- 
choly notes thee I often wish to 
hear at evening in the woods ; but if 
I miss thee, I walk unseen upon the 
smooth grass, to behold the moon 
when she has risen to the summit of 
the heavens, to the noon of night, 
unguided through the clouds, behind 


which she sometimes seems as if she 
lost her way, and sometimes from the 
reflection of her light upon the white 


clouds about her, she seems as if she 
stooped nearer to the earth. ^ 

Sweet bird. The nightingale is 
still spoken of, as if she were courted 
by the poet. 

Chauntress. Songstress. 

/ woo to hear thy even song. 
Even, for evening. I go to the 
woods to hear thee, as a lover goes 
to woo, or court his mistress. 

Riding near her highest noon. 
Riding in her chariot drawn by 

" Oft, on a plat of rising ground, 
I hear the far off curfew sound, 
Over some wide water'd shore, 
Swinging slow, with sullen roar, 


Or, if the air will not permit, 
Some still, removed place will fit, 
Where glowing embers through the room, 
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom, 
Far from all resort of mirth, 
Save the cricket on the hearth, 
Or the bellman's drowsy charm, 
To bless the doors from nightly harm ; 
Or let my lamp, at midnight hour, 
Be seen in some high lonely tow'r, 
Where I may oft outwatch the bear, 
With thrice great Hermes, or unsphefe 
The spirit of Plato, to unfold 
What worlds, or what vast regions hold, 
The immortal mind that hath forsook 
Her mansion in this fleshly nook, 
And of those demons that are found 
In fire, air, flood, or under ground, 
Whose power hath a true consent 
With planet or with element." 

" Oft let me stand upon a small hill, 
and hear some distant bell sound slow 
and heavily across some lake or a wide 


arm of the sea ; or if the weather will 
not permit me to be abroad, let me 
sit in some retired room, where a few 
embers may give only a faint and 
gloomy light, far from any sound 
that can interrupt melancholy, except 
the chirping of the cricket, and the 
drowsy cry of the watchman ; or let 
me sit by the light of a single lamp, 
in some high and lonely tower, 
beyond midnight, studying the phi- 
losophy of the Egyptian Hermes, or 
of Plato, who endeavours to explore 
those unknown worlds which the soul 
inhabits after it has left the human 
body, and who taught his disciples to 
believe that certain genii, or inferior 
spirits, preside over the elements of 
earth, air, fire, and water." 

The poet still speaks of himself, 


laying aside his address to Melan- 

Of ton a plat. This word is usu- 
ally written and pronounced plot ; 
it is however probably derived from 
plains^ flat* 

Teach light to counterfeit a gloom , 
This in prose would be nonsense ; 
but in poetry, if any obscure or transi- 
tory feeling of the mind can be called 
up by words that convey no very 
distinct meaning, we pass over the 
inaccuracy of expression, and favour 
the intention of the poet. In another 
place Milton says, darkness visible, 
palpable darkness. Milton was blind ; 
and whoever attend carefully to their 
own sensations will perceive, that 
when they shut their eyes entirely, or 
when they go into a room perfectly 


dark, a feeling of privation takes place, 
which is different from the effect of 
darkness in a room where a few dying 
embers by fits show faintly some of 
the surrounding objects, as the dark- 
ness is not perfect, it may by a poet 
be called counterfeit. 

Far from all resort of mirth. 
Far from any place to which mirth 

Save the cricket on the hearth. 
Except that the cricket, which is an 
emblem of mirth, chirps upon the 

Or the bellman s drowsy charm. 
The drowsy sound of the watch man's 
bell, taking his rounds from house to 

Where I may oft outwatch the bear. 
Where I may sit up till morning, 



studying the philosophy of the an- 
cients, as taught by Hermes, the 
Mercury of the Greeks, who was sup- 
posed to have brought the knowledge 
of the Chaldeans into Greece. 

Or unsphere 

The spirit of Plato, to unfold. 

The spirit of Plato is rightly sum- 
moned to unfold these particular no- 
tions ; for he has treated more largely 

o - 

than any of the philosophers, con- 
cerning the separate state of the soul 
after death, and concerning demons 
residing in the elements, and influ- 
encing the planets, and directing the 
course of nature. I would not swell 
this note with quotations from his 
works, because the English reader 
may see a summary of his doctrines 


at the end of Stanley's Life of that 
philosopher. And, as Mr. Thyer 
observes, the word unsphere alludes 
to the platonic notion of different 
spheres or regions being assigned to 
spirits of different degrees of perfec- 
tion or impurity, the same term is 
.used in the Mask, verse 2. 

" Where those immortal shapes 

Of bright aeiial spirits live insphered 

In regions mild, of calm and serene air.'* 


The Mahometan inhabitants of the 
East believe in the existence of 
genii, whom they suppose to have 
been created, and to have governed 
the world, before the time of Adam ; 
.they consider them as beings inter^ 
mediate between men and angels. 


" Sometimes let gorgeous tragedy, 

In sceptred pall come sweeping by, 

Presenting Thebes' or Pelops' line, 

Or the tale of Troy divine, 

Or what (though rare) of later age, 

Ennobl'd hath the buskin'd stage. 

But, sad virgin, that thy power 

Might raise Musaeus from his bovver, 

Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing 

Such notes, as, warbled to the string, 

Drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek 

And made Hell grant what Love did seek." 

"Sometimes at this hour of nio- 


let me see the representations of 
ancient tragedy, dressed in long flow- 
ing robes, presenting the story of the 
siege of Thebes, of the wretched race 
of Pelops, or the fall of Troy, or what 
modern tragedy (the buskined stage) 
has represented with dignity. 

" But, O sad virgin (Melancholy, 

L 3 


to whom the poet again addresses him- 
self; I wish that thy power could re- 
call to life Musaeus, or Orpheus, 
whose music made tears flow down 
the iron cheeks of Pluto, and pre- 
vailed upon him to grant the request 
of Orpheus, to have his wife Eury- 
dice restored to him/* 

Gorgeous tragedy. ~ The poet 
alludes to the ancient tragedies of 
Eschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, 
amongst the Greeks ; and probably of 
Seneca, amongst the Roman poets ; 
and to Shakspeare, Jonson, &c. 
amongst the modern. 

Mmeeus was a Grecian poet, much 
celebrated amongst the ancients ; his 
works are lost ; so are those of Or- 
pheus, except a poem on the expe- 
dition of Jason, which by some is 


thought to be the work of Orpheus : 
for these reasons Milton wishes to 
recall them from the dead, that he 
might hear them recite their verses. 

Drew iron tears down Pluto's 
cheek. This is a very bold cata- 

<4 Or call up him that left half told 

The story of Cambuscan bold, 

Of Cam ball, and of Algarsife, 

And who had Canace to wife, 

That own'd the virtuous ring and glass, 

And of the wondrous horse of brass, 

On which the Tartar king did ride." 

" Or call up him from the dead, 
that left unfinished the story of the 
bold Cambuscan, and of his sons 
Camball and Algarsife, and of his 
daughter Canace, who possessed a 
wonderful mirror, and a magical ring ; 


who relates the marriage of Canaoe, 
and who describes the wonderful 
brazen horse, on which a Tartar king 
rode to the court of Cambuscan. r 

Or call up him that left half told 
The story of Cambuscan bold. 

" He means Chaucer and his Squire's 
Tale, wherein Cambuscan is king of 
Sarra in Tartary, and has two sons, 
Algarsife and Camball, and a daugh- 
ter named Canace. This Tartar king 
receives a present from the king of 
Araby and Ind, of a wonderful horse 
of brass, that could transport him 
through the air to any place ; and 
a sword of rare qualities ; and at the 
same time his daughter Canace is 
presented with a virtuous ring and 
glass a glass by which she could 


discover secrets and future events, 
and a ring by which she could under- 
stand the language of birds. This 
tale was either never finished by 
Chaucer, or part of it is lost ; but 
Spencer has endeavoured to supply 
the defect in his Fairy Queen, and 
begins with such a handsome intro- 
duction and address to the spirit of 
Chaucer, that I should be tempted 
to transcribe it, if it would not pro- 
long this note beyond its due mea- 
sure. See Book IV, cant. 2, stanza 
32." N. 

Thus far bishop Newton. Our 
young readers, when they hear of the 
wondrous horse of brass, on which the 
Tartar king did ride, will immediately 
recollect the Indian, in the Arabian 
Tales, who rides upon an enchanted 


horse, that has exactly the same 
qualities as those of the brazen horse 
described by Chaucer : he mounts 
into the air, when one pin is turned, 
and falls when another is turned. A 
flying chest, or machine, guided in the 
same manner, by turning certain pins 
or valves, is made the foundation of 
an entertaining story in the Persian 
Tales ; and it gives such extraordi- 
nary advantages to the poor weaver of 
Mouse], who travels in it, that he is 
enabled to rout whole armies, and 
even to pass for the prophet Maho- 
met himself. 

In another beautiful Arabian tale, 
a flying sopha is introduced, w r hich 
conveys its master wherever hechooses 
to go. It is observable that the flying 
chest is consumed bv fire, and that 

m.1 * 


all these flying vehicles rise or fall by 
turning certain handles. 

These circumstances make it pro- 
bable that something like balloons had 
lonsr since been discovered, and that 


though the invention has been since 
lost, some obscure tradition of its 
existence has been preserved. 

The virtuous ring and glass. The 
word virtue applied to inanimate sub- 
stances is still used ; as, the virtues 
of vegetables or drugs ; but the ad- 
jective virtuous is, in this sense, 
become obsolete. 


And if ought else great bards, beside, 
In sage and solemn tunes have sung, 
Of turneys, and of trophies hung, 
Of forests and enchantments drear, 
Where more is meant than meets the ear. 


" And relate any other strains, 
sung by great bards, of tournaments 
and triumphs, of dark forests, and 
of enchantments, which convey to 
the mind some hidden moral/ 1 

And if ought else. The sense 
here is incomplete : there is no verb 
in the sentence. The poet means to 
say, O mournful virgin, relate an/ 
other solemn poetry, &c. 

Of 'turneys and of trophies hung. 
Turneys for tournaments. Tro- 
phies hung. Trophies are spoils 
taken from an enemy, and hung upon 
some triumphal arch or pillar, or in 
some church or temple, to preserve 
the memory of a victory. The word 
hung relates only to the word tro- 
phies, and not to the word turneys. 

Where more is meant than meets 


the ear. Good poets mean not only 
to amuse, but to instruct ; and they 
frequently teach the principles of 
prudence, religion, and virtue, in the 
fables and allegories of poetry. 

" Thus, Night, oft see me in thy pale career, 

Till civil-suited Morn appear, 

Not trickt and frouuct, as she was wont, 

With the attic boy to hunt, 

But kerchieft in a comely cloud, 

While rocking winds are piping loud ; 

Or usher' d with a shower still, 

When the gust hath blown its fill, 

Ending on the rushing leaves, 

With minute drops from off the eaves." 

" Thus, Night, may you often 
find me waking till sober Morning 
appears, not robed in flames and 
amber light, as she is described in 
L'Allegro ; not dressed as when she 



pursued the early chace with the 
Athenian Cephalus,but with her head 
veiled in a becoming cloud, whilst 
the winds whistle loudly ; or else ac- 
companied by a gentle shower, after 
the wind is hushed, when we hear 
the last drops of rain rustling amongst 
the leaves, or dropping at intervals 
from the eaves of houses. '* 

Civil-suited. Suited means dress- 
ed, having a suit on. Civil, sober; 
perhaps it means here, civil, opposed 
to military. 

Not trickt andfrounct, as she ivas wont, 
With the attic boy to hunt. 

Shakspeare calls dress tricking. Mrs. 
Page, in the Merry Wives of Wind- 
sor, says, " Go, get us properties and 
tricking for our fairies. r Frounct is 


another word to the same purpose, 
signifying much the same as frizled, 
crisped, curled. The attic boy is 
Cephalus, with whom Aurora fell in 
love as he was hunting. 

Kerchief ; an ancient head-dress. 
" Oh, what time have you found out, 
brave Cains, to wear a kerchief/* 

Handkerchief; a kerchief for the 

Neckerchief ; a kerchief worn on 
the neck. 

Rocking winds ; rocking or shak- 
ing the walls of buildings. Zanga 
says, in the tragedy of the Revenge, 

" I like this rocking of the battlements." 

With minute drops from off the 
caves. Drops that fall from the eaves 


of houses every now and then, after 
a shower ; perhaps taken from bells 
formerly tolled, with intervals of a 
minute, from the death to the burial 
of distinguished persons. 

" And when the sun begins to fling 
His flaring beams, me, goddess, bring 
To arched walks of twilight groves, 
And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves; 
Of pine, or monumental oak, 
Where the rude axe with heaved stroke 
Was never heard the nymphs to daunt, 
Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt ; 
There, in close covert, by some brook, 
Where no profuner eye may look, 
Hide me from Day's garish eye, 
While the bee, with honied thigh, 
That at herflow'ry work doth sing, 
And the waters murmuring, 
With such concert as they keep, 
Entice the dewy-feather'd Sleep ; 


And let some strange, mysterious dream 

Wave at his wings, in airy stream 

Of lively portraiture display'd, 

Softly on my eyelids laid ; 

And as I wake, sweet music breathe 

Above, about, or underneath, 

Sent by some spirit, to mortals good, 

Or th' unseen genius of the wood." 

" And when the beams of the sun 
begin to shine with dazzling light, 
lead me, O goddess (of melancholy) 
to arched groves, dim as twilight 
such shades as the god Sylvanus de- 
lights in formed from pines or oaks, 
that, from their age, appear like 
monuments of former times ; groves 
where the rude axe of the wood-cutter 
never alarms the nymphs ; there let 
me lie by the side of some stream, 
under the shady covert where no 

M 3 


profane eye (the eye of none who do 
not feel enthusiastic love for such 
scenes) may disturb me; whilst round 
me the honey-bee sings as she collects 
her stores from the wild flowers, 
whilst the murmuring streams invite 
me to sleep ; there let some myste- 
rious dream, pictured to my eyes in 
lively colours, appear to me in my 
slumbers ; and when I awake, let 
me hear at a distance soft music, such 
as might seem to be sent by the 
genius of the wood, or by some un- 
known power, benevolent to mor- 

Flaring beams. Flaring properly 
means fluttering, like the pendant 
of a ship, for show ; it also means 
any thing gaudily displayed ; flaring 
ribbons, a flaring carriage, &c. 


Twilight groves. Groves as dark 
as twilight. 

That Sylvan loves. Sylvanus, a 
heathen god, presiding over forests. 

The nymphs. The ancients sup- 
posed that wood-nymphs, or inferior 
female deities, inhabited and protected 
woods, and that water and sea-nymphs 
existed in rivers and in the ocean. 

Garish. Gaudy. The use of un- 


common words is sometimes agree- 
able in poetry, as it excites curiosity 
and attention. 

The bee with honied thigh. The 
bee deposits in a small bag the honey 
which it collects ; it gathers wax on 
its thigh ; 

" With honey loads his bag, with wax his 

* Parnel. 


Dewy-feather d Sleep. As sleep 
usually approaches at night, he may 
be supposed to have his wings moist 
with dew ; it is, however, a strange 
epithet for Somnus, especially when 
he is invoked in the middle of the 

And let some strange, mysterious 
dream. Morpheus, the god of 
dreams, was a separate personage 
from Somnus ; and he is here called 
upon to accompany the hovering 
wings of Somnus, and to waft an 
aerial stream of living imagery before 
the poet's eyes. 

Wave at his wings in airy stream 
Of lively portraiture displayed, 

Is an intricate mode of expression ; 
and though we may suppose that the 
poet meant a stream of successive 


imagery wafted in air, it is scarcely 
intelligible. We cannot, however, 
avoid taking notice of the beauty of 
some of these lines. 

And as I wake, fyc. The har- 
mony of the words is such, that they 
almost seem to lull the mind to 
repose. The excellence of Milton's 
numbers is entirely independent of 
rhyme : on the contrary, rhyme rather 
encumbers him. 

" But let my due feet never fail 
To walk the studious cloisters pale, 
And love the high-embowed roof, 
With antic pillars massy proof, 
And storied windows, richly dight, 
Casting a dim religious light ; 
There let the pealing organ blow 
To the full-voic'd quire below, 


In service high, and anthems clear, 

As may with sweetness through mine ear 

Dissolve me into extasies, 

And bring all Heaven before mine eyes;" 

" But let me never fail at due 
times to frequent the dim cloisters, 
to hear the holy services of religion ; 
let me walk in the long silent cloisters, 
where I love to contemplate the point- 
ed arches and ancient pillars, \vhich 
support the massy structure ; and the 
painted windows, representing sacred 
history, and transmitting through 
their rich colours a dim light, suited 
to religious worship ; and let me hear 
the pealing (loud sounding) organ ac- 
companying the choir in high (full) 


service, and clear anthem, such as, 
passing through my external senses to 
my soul, may dissolve (or soften) it 


in religious extasy, and may bring 
the joys of Heaven before my imagi- 

These fine lines cover the inaccura- 
cies of their construction from tran- 
sient observation. 

And love the high-enibowcd roof. 
And love, must refer to feet in the 
preceding lines; the author certainly 
did not mean that his feet should love 
the architecture of the roof, and the 
music : he meant 

And let me love the embowed roof, 

Embowed ; bent like a bow. 

Antic, for antique. 

As may with sweetness. The word 
such is wanting to complete the sense. 
Young people are apt to justify in- 
accuracy of expression by the authority 


of great writers. The first excellence 
of writing is to be clear and easily- 
understood ; and accuracy of expres- 
sion, and regularity of construction, 
are the elements of intelligible writing. 

o o 

In reading poetry, the young mind 
should be accustomed to observe 
defects, as well as beauties, and to 
examine why it is pleased, or dis- 

Due feet. Due means, what is 
owing, and means here, the attend- 
ance due to religious service. Feet 
here is put for the whole person ; it 
seems scarcely necessary to enter into 
such minute explanation ; but a clear 
notion of poetical metonymy, will be 
useful to our pupils when they read 
the Latin and Greek classics. 

Cloisters pale. Pale is used by 


Milton for dim. Pale colours are in- 
distinct, and have for that reason, in 
some degree, the effect of darkness, 
In the beautiful poem of Margaret's 
Ghost, a shroud is called sable. 

" And clay cold was her lily hand 
That held her sable shroud."* 

The poet (Mallet) wishes to con- 
trast the pale hand with the black 
shroud, and he takes advantage, for 
this purpose, of the association be- 
tween death and blackness ; for 
shrouds in our oldest poets are called 

" Ah me ! what ghastly spectre's yon 
Comes in his pale shroud bleeding after. "f 

* Ancient Poetry, Vol. III. 

t The Braes of Yarrow Ancient Poetiy, Vol. II. 



Here a contrast is made between 
the whiteness of the shroud, and the 
colour of the streaming: blood. 


" And may at last ray weary age 
Find out the peaceful hermitage. 
The hairy gown, and mossy cell* 
Where I may sit and rightly spell, 
Of every star that Heav'n doth shew, 
And every herb that sips the dew ; 
Till old experience do attain. 
To something like prophetic strain ; 
These pleasures Melancholy give, 
And I with thee will choose to live." 

" And may I at the close of life 
have some peaceful retirement, where 
I may contemplate the works of Pro- 
vidence, in the wonderful structure 
of the universe, and in the minutest 
plant that contains medicinal virtue, 
may I thus acquire from experience 


the power of foretelling what is likely 
to happen in future, by my know- 
ledge of the past. If, Melancholy, 
thou wilt give me these solid plea- 
sures of the understanding, with thee 
I will choose to live. 

Rightly spell, 

Of every star that Heaven doth slieiv. 

Spell. Endeavour to discover the 
meaning of. Formerly, even near 
the time of Milton, mankind were in- 
clined to believe that the stars had 
some influence upon human events. 
Men of good sense, who were versed 
in history, and who had acquired the 
habit of tracing events back to their 
causes, could frequently, when simi- 
lar circumstances began again to 
actuate mankind, foretell the events 
*vh.ich were likely to happen ; for 


instance, it was not difficult, during 
the latter years of the French mo- 
narchy, to foretell a revolution ; nor 
was it difficult to foresee, that slavery 
and democratic tyranny would ensue 
in France, after the death of the 

Were people now, A. D. 1821, in- 
clined to believe in what is called 
judicial astrology, a man who had 
pretended to consult the stars, and 
who had predicted the events which 
have lately happened, would have 
passed for an astrologer and a prophet. 

In peaceful times men are not so 
ctirious about future events, as during 
foreign wars, or domestic tumults. 
The vulgar, not seeing any adequate 
cause for the great events which in 
such times happen before their eyes, 


are apt to attribute them to celestial 
influence. This aptitude arises from 
the nature of the association of our 
ideas : they have heard that in former 
public calamities it had been observed, 
that particular appearances of the stars 
accompanied particular events ; and 
when they see the appearance of the 
same phenomena in the heavens, they 
expect a recurrence of the same events 
upon earth. 

These pleasures Melancholy give, 
And I with thee will choose to live. 

Milton in his conclusion expresses 
no doubt of Melancholy's power to 
bestow the pleasures he has described, 
and therefore determines to live with 
her, if she will allow him to share 
them . 

( 138 ) 


IT has already been said, that in 
poetry the virtues and the vices, the 
passions, and almost every feeling of 
the mind, are personified; that is, 
represented and addressed as ani- 
mated beings. 

In the ode we are going to explain, 
Fear is described as a nymph, or 
sylvan goddess, attended by many 
other ideal personages, such as Dan- 
ger, Vengeance, Murder, &c. This 
is called an allegorical description ; 
and the companions which the poet 
allegorically brings forward in the 
train of Fear are all such as are natu- 
rally connected with it, either as 


cause or effect. Danger, as a cause, 
produces Fear. Fear often produces 
Danger, as an effect. Vengeance 
justly causes Fear ; as the conse- 
quences of Revenge, whether the 
efforts of sudden rage, or of slow 
malignity, are equally dreadful and 
dangerous, and are frequently the 
causes of Murder, another of the 
allegorical persons here introduced. 

" Thou, to whom the world unknown, 
With all its shadowy shapes, is shown, 
Who seest appall'd th' unreal scene, 
While Fancy lifts the veil between. 
Ah ! Fear, ah ! frantic Fear, 
I see, I see thee near ; 
I know thy hurried step, thy haggard eye, 
Like thee, I start; like thee, disordered fly : 
For lo ! what monsters in thy train appear." 

" O thou, to whom Fancy displays 


a world of visionary shapes ; thoii, 
who art teraiied at the ideal scene 
thy own imagination forms ; thou, 
who art frantic with terror, O Fear, 
I behold thee approaching. I know 
thee by the hurried motion of thy 
steps, and by the wildness of thine 
eyes. I see thee start. J also start 
like thee. I see thee attempt to 
escape in confusion and .disorder; 
and, like thee, with confusion and 
disorder I attempt to flee: for io ! 
what monsters do I "behold in thy 
train ! The horror of the sight ter- 
rifies me in the same manner as it has 
appalled thyself." 

Collins begins by addressing him- 
self to Fear, as to a person, who has 
the power of seeing something more 
than is visible to mortal eyes, the 


power of seeing the shadowy shapes, 
or visionary figures of the unknown 
world, and of perceiving those things 
which exist only in the imagination. 
Thus he gives to Fear, as a privilege, 
the power of producing certain effects 
on the mind, which every one has 

While Fancy lifts the veil between. 
The act of showing them is poeti- 
cally described by lifting a veil or cur- 
tain, and displaying what was before 
concealed from the view, 

Frantic Fear. Fear is called fran- 
tic, because it sometimes affects the 
mind in the same manner as mad- 
ness : any violent passion may be 
called an insanity or madness. 

Hurried step. Unsteady, in haste 
from the feelings of an agitated mind. 


It has been observed, that Milton* 
applies the verb to hurry, almost con- 
stantly to preternatural motion, or 
imaginary beings. 

Haggard. Wild, staring. Hag- 
gard is the name of a species of wild 

hawk, that cannot easilv be tamed : 


and the term haggard is taken from. 


the appearance of its eyes. Hawking, 
or falconry, was a favourite sport 
among the great in former times ; 
and many of the words in our lan- 
guage are metaphors taken from that 

For lo ! what monsters in thy train 
appear. The monsters which equal- 
ly terrify the nymph and the poet, are 
those feelings which we have before 

* Notes to Vathek. 

ODE TO FEAR. 1 13 

enumerated as the companions, or 
rather attendants of Fear. 

e( Danger, whose limbs of giant mould 
What mortal eye can fix'd behold ? 
Who stalks his round, a hideous form, 
Howling amidat the midnight storm, 
Or throws him on the ridgy steep 
Of some loose-hanging rock to sleep." 

" I see Danger, upon whose gigan- 
tic form no one can have the courage 


to look stedfastly ; who howls amid 
storms in the depth of the night, or 
lays himself down to sleep on the 
steep ridge of some loose-hanging 

Danger is described the first ; for 
fears are only great in proportion to 
the danger to which we think our- 
selves exposed. Danger is repre- 


scnted as gigantic, because fear always 
magnifies danger: take away fear, and 
danger shrinks to its real size. Sailors, 
and workmen of various descriptions, 
mount to heights, and work at ease, 
in situations where persons under the 
influence of fear could not remain a 
moment : thus fear creates danger, 

o * 

and always increases it. 

My little friends will observe of 
what great consequence it is to them 
to acquire useful habits, as by habit 
we can obtain a decree of strength, 

O O ' 

both of mind and body, far beyond 
what is to be met with in uncul- 
tivated nature. 

Wlio stalks his round. Who walks 
a certain course. 

Howling amidst the midnight 
storm. Storms at night are always 

ODE TO FEAR. 14v) 

attended with clanger and with acci- 
dents ; the poet ingeniously attributes 
to Danger the howling noises which 

O o 

are heard on stormy nights. These 
sounds are really made by the sudden 
rushing of the wind, and the opposi- 
tion that it meets with from the ob- 
jects it encounters : on a wide level 
plain the wind makes but little noise ; 
high in the air, it would be scarcely 

Danger is considered as sleeping 
upon a loose rock on the edge of 
a precipice, because danger, as a 
circumstance, exists in such a situa- 

" And with him thousand phantoms joinM, 
Who prompt to deeds accurs'd the mind." 

" And with him I see a number 



of other spirits, or phantoms, who 
urge men to commit great crimes.'' 

Here Danger is represented as sur- 
rounded with phantoms, imaginary 
beings, or such as we think we see in 

Who prompt to deeds accursed the 
mind. Not the mind of danger, but 
the minds of men who apprehend 
danger. The poet quits the personal 
description of Danger, and goes to 
the effects produced by it, and by its 
attending circumstances, upon the 
persons under its influence. Some- 
times, when men are in perilous and 
alarming situations, they think of 
desperate and criminal actions, in 
order to remove the objects of their 

ODE TO FEAR. 14-7 

" And those the tiends, who, near allied, 
O'er nature's wrecks and wounds preside." 

" And those evil spirits, who near- 
ly allied to Danger, preside over the 
great convulsions of nature.' 

Fiend. Enemy. It is used as a 


general term for all those mischievous 
preternatural beings which are called 
evil spirits. 

Natures wrecks and wounds. 
The effects of earthquakes, storms of 
thunder and lightning, hurricanes, 

O O ' 

&c., over which these evil beings are 
supposed to preside. Poets some- 
times allude to the Grecian and 
Roman mythology, which attributed 
to almost every object in nature a 
guardian spirit, who was called god, 
demi-god, or nymph ; aacl sometimes 
to the eastern mythology of the grnii. 


** While Vengeance in the lurid air 
Lifts her red arm, expos'd and bare ; 
On whom the ravening brood of Fate, 
Who lap the blood of sorrow, wait. 
Who, Fear, this ghastly train can see 
And not look madly wild, like thee?" 

" I see Vengeance lift her blood- 
stained arm high in air ; and I see 
her followed by those animals of prey 
which lap the blood that has been 
shed by Sorrow and Misfortune, 
Who, O Fear, can look upon a train 
of such hideous forms, without a wild 
and frantic countenance, like thine 

own ?" 

Lurid. Gloomy, murky, dismal, 
This description of Vengeance brings 
before the eye the figure of a woman 
used to massacre, and regardless of 
decency, to denote that those who 


are in pursuit of vengeance forget 
every other consideration, while they 
are actuated by that violent passion. 
Ravening means greedy ; a meta- 
phor taken from the raven, who tears 
his prey with fury. It may here be 
observed how readily metaphorical 
words become familiar in language. 

O o 

The metaphorical meaning of rave- 
ning , or ravenous, is here unnoticed ; 
and it is used by the poet with ano- 
ther metaphor as a proper epithet. 
The metaphor is taken from a beast 
of prey, who laps; the epithet from 
a bird who pounces with his beak. 
Were the idea of the raven present to 
the mind, the term lapping would be 



** Thou, who such weary lengths hast past, 
Where wilt thou rest, mad nymph, at last ? 
Say, wilt thou shroud in haunted cell, 
Where gloomy Rape and Murder dwell ? 
Or, in some hollowed seat, 
'Gainst which the big waves beat, 
Hear drowning seamen's cries, in tempests 
brought ?" 

" When wilt thou rest, mad nymph, 
after all thy weary and wild excur- 
sions ? Wilt thou conceal thyself in 
some cell inhabited by Rape and 
Murder, and which is visited by the 
ghosts of the dead ? or wilt thou sit 
within some hollowed rock, against 
the sides of which the waves of the 
ocean beat with violence, and where 
thou mayst hear, mingled with howl- 
ing blasts of wind, the dying groans 
of shipwrecked seamen ? 


The poet has described Fear as 
being out of her senses ; and, after 
following her hurried steps through a 
number of scenes of active danger, he 
asks her, in these lines, where she 
will rest, and points out the most ter- 
rifying places for her retreat, and the 
most gloomy subjects for her contem- 

Mad nymph. This epithet is too 
familiar for the subject. 

Shroud. To hide, to conceal. 
Haunted. Visited, frequented , 

It is in common language chiefly 
applied to apparitions, or what are 
generally called ghosts, who are said 
by the vulgar and the ignorant to 
wander about at night, near places 
where people have been murdered. 


" Dark power ! with meek submitted 


Be mine to read the visions old, 
Which thy awakening bards hav-e told ; 
And lest thou meet my blasted view, 


Hold each strange tale devoutly true. 
Ne'er be I found, by thee o'erawed, 
On that thrice hallowed eve abroad, 
When ghosts, as cottage maids believe, 
Their pebbled beds permitted leave, 
And goblins haunt from fire, or fen, 
Or mine, or flood, the walks of men." 

" Dark, mysterious power ! grant 
that with meekness and submission 
I may read the visions that thy anci- 
ent bards have composed on purpose 
to awaken terror. And lest I incur 
thy displeasure, O Fear, grant that 
I may believe each strange and im- 
probable tale, and look upon them 
as true with a species of reverence 


and enthusiasm approaching to devo- 
tion. Overawed by thee, O Fear, 
may I never be so rash as to venture 
out on that sacred evening on which 
it is said by the rustic cottagers, that 
ghosts are permitted to leave their 
stony beds, and that goblins, or ap- 
paritions, haunt the walks of men.' 
The evening, which the poet con- 
siders as devoted to superstitious fear, 
is that of the 31st of October, and is 
called Holy or Allhaliow eve. In 
many places it is still celebrated with 
peculiar ceremonies, tricks of child- 
ish superstition, and rustic merri- 
ment. Ignorant country people be- 
lieve that supernatural voices are 
heard, and that the ghosts of their 
friends appear to them, and particu- 
larly that the spirits of those persons 


who have met with untimely deaths 
are seen by men. 

From jirc, or fen, or mine, or 
flood. The poet enumerates the 
places where fatal accidents most fre- 
quently happen, fires, fens or marshes, 
mines, and floods. 

Submitted. Humbled and sub- 
mitting before the power of Fear. 

To read. To interpret. 

Awak&ning. Awakening the at- 
tention and passions of their audi- 

Blasted. Struck as it were with 

" O thou, whose spirit most possest 
The sacred seat of Shakspeare's breast ! 
By all that from thy prophet broke, 
In thy divine emotions spoke, 


Hither again thy fury deal, 
Teach me but once like him to feel ; 
His cypress wreath my meed decree 
And I, OFear, will dwell with thee." 

" O Fear, whose spirit inspired 
the mind of Shakspeare, I adjure thee 
by all the emotions which have been 
excited by that poet, when most 
under thy influence, to make me feel 
as he did ; make me deserve the cy- 
press wreath, which Shakspeare as a 
tragic poet has obtained. Give me 
that great reward, and then, O Fear, 
I shall dwell with thee, and be thy 

Shakspeare s breast. When Col- 
lins addresses Fear, as having filled 
Shakspeare's imagination, he means, 
that Shakspeare possessed, above all 
other poets, the power of moving the 



passions, and of making his readers 
feel the emotions of fear whenever he 
wished to excite them. 

Prophet. This perhaps is an al- 
lusion to the Jewish prophets, who 
were also poets. The prophecies of 
Ezekiel and Isaiah are sublimely poe- 
tical. It is more probable, however, 
that the poet alludes to the pythian 
priestess at Delphi, who always 
worked herself into something like 
frenzy before she pronounced her 
oracles. These oracles were some- 
times commands and sometimes an- 
swers, deliverd to those who came 
to inquire into futurity. They were 
composed in such an ingenious man- 
ner, and in such obscure terms, that 
the interpretation was easily made to 
suit what ever events might happen. 


In the History of Greece, and parti- 
cularly in Herodotus, you will see 
how constantly the Greeks and barba- 
rians applied to the oracles of Apollo 
and Jupiter ; and in the Travels of 
the younger Anacharsis, you may 
read an account of the manner in 
which they were conducted, and the 
temples where their responses were 

In thy divine emotions spoke." The 
construction of this sentence is ob- 
scure ; it means, I adjure thee by all 
that broke from thy prophet, and that 
was spoken by him, in a spirit of 
emotion similar to thine, O Fear. 

Fury properly means madness ; 
here it means poetic enthusiasm. 

Cypress wreath. The wreath which 
was the reward of tragic excellence. 


1,58 ODE TO FEAR. 

In the notes on the Penseroso some 
remarks are made on the word cy- 



Meed. Recompence. 

Collins claims the meed of tragedy, 
because Fear, to whom he addresses 
himself, is one of the great sources 
of tragic pathos, Aristotle says, that 
the moral end of tragedy is to purify 
the soul by pity and terror. 

And /, O Fear, will dwell with 
thee. This conclusion is imitated 
from I/ Allegro, and II Penseroso -of 

( 139 ) 





Taken from Act V, Scene III, of Shakspeare's Second 
Part of King Henry the Fourth. 


THOUGH Shakspeare's poetry is the 
delight and pride of our nation, it is 
in general too abstruse and difficult 
for foreigners and children. 

It exhibits the most lively pictures 
of external nature, and the most per- 
fect representation of human passions. 
His language is frequently obscure, 
from its containing manv words and 

O i/ 

phrases which are now out of com- 
mon use ; besides, his writings relate 


so much to the passions of men, and 
the concerns of princes and politi- 
cians, that a person must have what 
is called a knowledge of the world, 
and must have had some experience 
of the effects of human passions, 
before he can perceive the beauties, 
or have a relish for the excellencies 
of Shakspeare. The Speech of the 
Chief Justice, in the Second Part 
of Henry the Fourth, is in some 
measure free from these difficulties ; 
and it is selected for the purpose of 
introducing the style and manner of 
Shakspeare to our young readers. 

Shakspeare wrote dramatic pieces 
upon the history of England ; they 
are now called plays, though for- 
merly they were called histories ; 
each of them takes in several years ; 


and they carry the imagination of the 
spectator from England to France, 
and back again, many times in the 
space of one night. Henry the 
Fourth is one of these dramas ; it 
includes a great part of his reign, 
and concludes with his death, and 
with the coronation of his son Henry 
the Fifth. 

Henry the Fifth, when prince of 
Wales, was wild, and, in the dis- 
graceful society of Sir John FalstafF, 
Poins., and other idlers, committed 
several offences against the laws ; 
some of his attendants had been 
taken up by the officers of justice, 
for a riot, and were brought before the 
chief justice, Sir William Gascoigne. 
While they were in court, prince 
Henry came, and rudely demanded 

p 3 


that they should be released. The 
chief justice refused. The prince 
insulted, and, it is supposed, even 
struck the judge. Trie chief justice 
with great dignity kept his seat upon 
the bench, and in the authoritative 
tone of a man, to whom the execu- 
tion of the laws is intrusted, he re- 
buked the prince, and ordered him to 
be taken into custody. To this the 
prince, recollecting his duty, becom- 
ingly submitted. After the death of 

O li 

his father, when he became king, 
the nation expected he would give 
himself up to amusement and intem- 
perance ; but on the contrary, he 
immediately assumed the deportment 
and conduct of a wise monarch, and, 
dismissing from his presence his for- 
mer companions, instead of disgrac- 



ing the chief justice, who had com- 
mitted him, he thanked him for the 
firmness and dignity with which he 

o / 

had executed the laws, and conferred 
great favours upon him. The speech 
which is inserted in Enfield's Speaker 
from Shakspeare, is addressed to the 
chief justice by Henry the Fifth, 
after he became kin^ ; and it contains 

O ' 

excellent sentiments of prudence and 
justice, conveyed in expressive and 
energetic language. But as there are 
many words and phrases in Shak- 
speare, that are out of use at present, 
young people at first do not perfectly 
understand him, and therefore cannot 
feel his beauties. With the view 
of accustoming the eye and ear to 
ancient English, the following note 
from tin old author is introduced : 


" The moste renouned prince, 
kynge Henry the Fyfte, late kynge 
of .England e, durynge the lyfe of his 
father, was noted to be fiers and of 
wanton courage ; it happened that 
one of his seruauntes, whom he well 
fauoured, was, for felony by him 
committed, arrained at the kynge's 
benche, whereof the prince being 
aduertised and incensed by lyghte 
persones aboute him, in furious rage 
came hastily to the barre, where his 
seruaunt stode as a prisoner, and 
commaunded hym to be ungyued and 
set at libertie : whereat all men were 
abashed, reserued the chiefe justice, 
who humbly exhorted the prince to be 
contented, that his seruaunt mought 
be ordred accordynge to the aunciente 
lawes of this realme ; or if lie wolde 


hauve hym saued from the rigour of 
the lawes, that he shulde opteyne, 
if he mought, of the kynge his father 
his gratious pardon, wherby no lawe 
or iustyce shulde be derogate. With 
whiche ansvvere the prince nothynge 
appeased, but rather more inflamed, 
endeuored himselfe to take away his 
seruaunt. The iud^e considering the 

o o 

perillous example, and inconuenience 
that mouo'ht therbv insue, with a 

o / 

valyant spirite and courage, com- 
manded the prince, upon his alege- 
ance, to leaue the prisoner and depart 
his way ; with which commandment 
the prince being set all in a fury, all 
chafed and in a terrible manner came 
vp to the place of iugemerit, men 
thynking that he wold haue slayne 
the iuge, or haue done to hym some 


damage ; but the iuge sittynge styli 
without mouing, declaring the maiestie 
of the kynge's place of iugement, 
and with an assured and bolde coun- 
tenaunce sayd to the prince these 
wordes folio wyng ' Syr, remembre 
yourselfe. I kepe here the place of 
the kynge your soueraine lorde and 
father, to whom ye owe double obe- 
dience ; wherfore eftesoones in his 
name I charge you desyste of your 
wylfulriess and vnlaufull enterprise, 
and from hensforth giue good ex- 
ample to those whyche hereafter shall 
be your propre subiects. And no we 
for your contempre and disobedience, 
goe you to the prysorie of the kynge's 
benche, wherevnto I commytte you, 
and remayne ye there prisoner vntyll 
the pleasure of the kynge your father 


be further knowen* With whicbe 
wordes being abashed, and also wow- 
dry nge at the meruaylous grauitie of 
that worshypfulle justyce, the noble 
prince laying his weapon apart, doynge 
reuerence, departed, and went to the 
kynge's benche, as he was com- 
manded. Whereat his seruauntes des- 
daynynge, came and shewed to the 
kynffe all the hole affaire. Whereat 

*/ d7 

he awhyles studyenge after; as a man 
all rauyshed with gladnesse, holdy wgo 
his eien and handes vp towarde 
Heuen braided, saying with a loudc 
voice, ' O mercyfull God ! how 
moche am I aboue all other men 
bounde to your infinite goodnes, 
specially for that ye haue gyuen me 
a iuge, who feareth not to minister 
iustice: and also a sonne who can 
suffre semblably and obey iustyce." 



" Chief Just. I am assured, if I be mea- 
sured rightly* 
Your majesty hath no just cause to hate me.'* 

Measured- here means judged of. 

" Henry. No ! might a prince of my great 

hopes forget 

The great indignities you laid upon me ? 
What ! rate, rebuke, and roughly send to 


TV immediate heir of England ! was this easy ? 
May this be wash'd in Lethe, and forgotten 1" 

Might a prince. Might here 
means could. 

Of my great hopes. That had 
hopes of being king. 

Was this easy* Gentle or easy to 
be borne. 

May this be washed in Lethe. 
The ancients supposed that the waters 


of Lethe, the river of Hell ; produced 


" Ch. Just. I then did use the person of 

your father ; 

The image of his power lay then in me, 
And in th' administration of his law, 
While I was busy for the common- wealth, 
Your highness pleased to forget my place, 
The majesty and pow'r of law and justice, 
The image of the king, whom I presented, 
And struck me in the very seat of justice ; 
Whereon, as an offender to your father, 
I gave bold way to my authority, 
And did commit you. If the deed were ill, 
Be you contented, wearing now the garland, 
To have a son set your decrees at nought ; 
To pluck down justice from your awful beneh, 
To trip the course of law, and blunt the sword 
That guards the peace and safety of your 

person ; 

Nay, more, to spurn at your most royal image, 
And mock your workings in a second body." 



" I then represented the person oi 
your father (who is supposed to be 
present in this court of justice) ; his 
power was then in me, and whilst I 
was administering the laws, and busy 
for the common-weal (for the com- 
mon good), your highness forgot my 
office forgot the power and majesty 
of the laws and of justice you for- 
got your father, whom I represented, 
and struck me on the bench of jus- 
tice ; whereupon I boldly exerted 
my authority, and sent you to a 
prison. If you think this wrong, 
you must be contented when now 
you wear the garland (the crown), 
to have your son set your decrees at 
nought, to have him pull down the 
authority of your judgment- seat, to 
trip and stop the current course of 


iaw, and to take off the edge and 
power of the sword of justice, which 
guards the peace and safety of your 
person ; nay more, you must submit 
to have your son affront your own 
royal image, represented and acting 
in the person of the judge, whom 
you substitute in your place. Ques- 
tion your royal thoughts ; make the 
/ / 

case your own ; suppose yourself a 
father, and that you had a son ; sup- 
pose that you heard your dignity 
scorned, and that you saw your laws 
disdained; then imagine me taking 
your part, and by your power, in- 
herent in me, silencing your son. 
After halving brought these images 
before vour mind, and after cool con- 

V * 

sideration, pass sentence upon me: 
and as you are a king, speak not as a 


private person, but in the dignity of 
your public capacity, and declare 
what I have done unbecoming of my 
office, my person, or your sove- 
reignty. 5 ' 

Your highness. Highness is now 
a title of honour or respect addressed 
in England to the sons or daughters 
of the king ; formerly it was also 
used in addressing the king or queen. 

Pleased. Were pleased, or chose. 

/ gave bold way. I gave way 
boldly to the sense of the duties of 
my office. 

If the deed were ill. /// was for- 
merly used for wrong, or bad, in 
common conversation, and is now 
used in compound words: ill-behaved, 
ill-manners, ill-luck, ill-natured, c. 
//, before words which begin with /, 


stands for in, or not, as illiberal, not 
liberal ; illegal, not legal. 

The garland. Shakspeare, in two 
or three places, calls the crown the 

Set at nought, Make nothing of. 
Nought, or naughty, is used for bad ; 
that is, srood for nothing: the word 

' O O 

naught, or nought, comes from aught, 
any thing ; naught, not any tiling.^ 

And mock your working in a 
second body. You must be con- 
tented to have vour son mock vour 

/ / 

working, that is, your power acting 


* The figure 0, in arithmetic, is called noug-ht, 
because it does not represent any number, but is 
employed to note or mark the place or column, which 
other figures belong- to- 105. 

1 in tho place or column of hundreds. 

or nothing-, in tiie column of tens. 

5 in the column of ones, or units. 

Q 3 


in the person of a judge, who is jour 
second self or body. 


Question yonr royal thoughts. 
Reflect on your own mind as a king. 

Be now the father. Change 
places with your own father, and 
suppose that you had a son, who 
conducted himself as you did ; place 
him before your eyes, slighting your 
laws, &c. 

After this cold considerance, sen- 
tence me. After this cool consider- 
ation, determine whether I acted 
wrongly or rightly. 

Liege's sovereignty. Liege pro- 
perly means a person to whom a 
certain duty or obedience is owing. 
Formerly, after the conquest of Eng- 
land by William the Conqueror, the 
land of the kingdom was divided 


amongst his followers, or vassals, in 
the same manner that lands were 
usually divided upon the continent. 
Every man, instead of paying rent in 
money for the land which he held, 
was bound to supply the person from 
whom he held it, with a certain 
number of armed men, on horseback, 
or on foot. The person to whom he 
owed this service was called his liege 
lord. Persons who were themselves 
princes frequently had liege lords 
over them ; in particular, the em- 
peror of Germany had a great number 
of princes arid dukes for his vassals, 
who were all bound to him as their 
liege lord. 


"King Henry. You are right. Justice ; and 

you weigh this well ; 

Therefore still bear the balance and the sword, 
And I do wish your honours may increase, 
Till you do live to see a son of mine 
Offend you, and obey you, as I did : 
So shall I live to speak my father's words 

Happy am I, that have a man so bold, 
That dares do justice on my proper son ; 
And no less happy having such a. son, 
That would deliver up his greatness so, 
Into the hand of justice." 

The first line of this speech cannot 
be put into plainer prose than as it 
stands in the original.-" You are 
right, Justice ; and you weigh this 
well ; therefore continue in your 
office, deciding what is right and 
wrong, and determining between the 
weights of different evidence and 
arguments, as a person weighs things 


in scales to determine their value, 
and execute justice as you did on 
me ; and I wish your honours may 
increase during a long life, and that 
you may see a son of mine obey you 
as I did, if he offend as I have done. 
1 shall then gladly repeat what my 
father said of me ' I am happy to 
have a judge who is bold enough to 
execute the laws against my own 
son, and no less happy to have a 
son that submitted, in such a wise 
manner, to the hand of justice.' 

Therefore still bear the balance 
and the sword. The chief justice of 
the king's bench has neither a balance 
(a pair of scales), nor a sword, carried 
before him ; but the allegorical figure 
of Justice is represented in painting 
and statuary, by a female figure blind- 


fold, to show that Justice should not 
respect the persons of people ; with 
a balance in her left hand, to denote 
that she weighs carefully before she 
determines ; and with a sword in her 
right hand, to denote that Justice can 
punish offenders with the sword of 
the law. . The Roman magistrates 
had axes surrounded with rods, car- 
ried before them, as emblems of 
punishment ; the rods to punish 
smaller offences, the axe to punish 
greater crimes with death. Though 
the judges have not swords carried 
before them, yet the king, who is the 
head of the law, and who is repre- 
sented by the chief justice of the 
king's bench, has the sword of state 

carried before him on davs of cere- 




. You committed me; * 

For which I do commit into your hand 


TV unstainM sword, that you have us'd to 

bear ; 

With this remembrance, that you use the same 
With the like bold gust and impartial spirit, 
Which you have done 'gainst me There is 

my hand : 

You shall be as a father to my youth, 
My voice shall sound as you do prompt my ear, 
And I will stoop and humble my intents 
To your well-practis'd, wise directions." 

" You committed me to prison ; 
tor which bold and dignified conduct 


I entrust to vour hand the sword of 


Justice, which you used to bear, 
and which never was stained by any 
injustice, whilst in your care ; at the 
same time putting you in mind, to 
use it hereafter with the same cou- 
rage, justice, and impartiality, with 


which you used it against me. 
There is my hand : you shall be a 
father to me ; I will publish such 
decrees as you advise, and I will 
submit my will to your experience 
and wisdom. 5; 

You committed me ; 

For which I do commit into your hand. 

Here the words committed, sent to 
gaol, and commit, entrust, are pur- 
posely employed to make a kind of 
jingle in the sound, a kind of pun, 
or double meaning, of which authors 
of bad taste are fond. Shakspeare 
condescended to employ this false 
ornament in his best plays ; but it 
cannot be justified even by his autho- 

TIi unstained sword. Unstained 
here has a secret reterence to the blood 


which the sword of justice may be 
supposed to have shed. This is not 
a pun, but a just metaphor. The 
variable meaning of words is, in argu- 
ment and reasoning, the chief source 
of error and confusion ; but in poe- 
try it contributes to diversify and 
ornament. Pure, unstained blood, 
means, in general, nobility unsullied 
by crimes or dishonourable actions ; 
but the unstained sword of justice 
means not stained with pure and in- 
nocent blood. The blood of the 
guilty does not stain the sword of 
the law. 

With this remembrance. Hoping 
that you will remember. 

There is my hand. I give you 
my hand ; I shake hands with you, 
as a pledge or token of my promise, 



Stoop and humble my intents. 
Lower and moderate my intents or 
intentions by your advice. 

" And, princes all, believe me, I beseech you ; 
My father 's gone into his grave ; and in 
His tomb lie all my wild affections ; 
For with his spirit sadly I survive, 
To mock the expectations of the world, 
To frustrate prophecies, and to rase out 
Rotten opinion, which hath writ me down. 
After my seeming." 

" And, princes, believe me, my 
father has carried mv wildness and 


youthful follies into his grave with 
hirn^, for all my former affections 

* Perhaps some allusion is meant here to the Jewish 
expiatory sacrifice; but as this is not a fit place for 
such a discussion, I must refer my young* readers; for 
an explanation, to their preceptors, 


or propensities lie there ; and his 
sedate spirit lives in me, to disappoint 
the expectation which the world has 
of my being a dissipated monarch, 
and to contradict prophecies and 
opinions which were formed from my 
former conduct/' 

To rase out rotten opinion. Un- 
sound opinion. This seems to be a 
bad metaphor. 

Which hath writ me down 

After my seeming. 

Which has written and fixed in the 
memory of the people. The memory 
is often compared to a book or tablet, 
in which things are written down. 


The ancients had wooden tables, 
covered very thinly with wax, upon 
which they wrote with a pointed iron, 
called a style ; whence comes the 


word style, or manner of writing. 
As we do not know how ideas are 
remembered, we are obliged to speak 
metaphorically when we describe the 
operations of memory ; and it is a 
very natural metaphor, to suppose the 
memory to be like a waxed tablet, 
upon which ideas might be engraved, 
and from which they might be easily 
effaced. We speak of warm images 
melting into the soul of ideas melt- 
ing away from the memory : 

" Where beams of warm imagination play, 
The memory's soft figures melt away." 


Though my tide of blood 

Hath proudly flovv'd in vanity till now, 
Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea, 
Where it shall mingle with the floods of state. 
And flow henceforth in formal majesty." 


" Though the tide of my blood 
hath flowed proudly hitherto, it now 
begins to ebb ; and, instead of de- 
parting farther from the great sea of 
public duty, it will henceforth return, 
and mingle with the great ocean of 
state concerns ; and when it again 
flows, it shall flow majestically." 

This is a bold metaphor ; that is 
to say, a metaphor which goes farther 
beyond than the degree of resem- 
blance that is usual in metaphors. 
The blood flows from the heart, and 
returns to it ; the waves flow from 
the sea, and ebb from the shore to the 
sea again ; so far there is an analogy 
between the waves and the blood ; 
but the poet goes beyond this ana- 
logy, and says, the tide of blood flow- 
ing proudly from the sea of majesty, 

R 3 


had. during its vigorous course, for- 

7 O O 

gotten the dignity of its origin ; but 
now it ebbs, and, turning back to 
the sea, mixes again with the ocean 
of majesty, from which it shall here- 
after flow with becoming dignity. 

Mingle with the floods of state 
might perhaps have some remote 
allusion to the meeting of the parlia- 
ment of the states, or estates, as 
they are sometimes called ; in which 
meeting of all the streams of power 
the true majesty of the English go- 
vernment consists. In the next sen- 
tence Henry speaks of calling the 

" Now call we our high court of parliament, 
And let us choose such limbs of noble council, 
That the great body of our state may go 
In equal rank with the best governed nation ; 


That war, or peace, or both at once, may be 
As things acquainted and familiar to us, 
In which you, father, shall have foremost hand. 

[To Lord Chief Justice.'] 
Our coronation done, we will accite 
(As I before remember'd) all our state ; 
And (Heav'n consigning to my good intents) 
No prince, nor peer, shall havej ust cause to say, 
Heav'n shorten Harry's happy life one day !" 

" Now we will call our high court 
of parliament, and we will choose 
such counsellors as shall, like limbs, 
support the state, and carry it forward 
in equal progress with the best govern- 
ed nation ; so that war or peace, or 
both at once, may become familiar 
to my people ; among which coun- 
sellors, you, revered sir (speaking to 
the chief justice), shall be one of the 
foremost. As soon as our coronation 
is pver, we will call this parliament. 


as I have already said, and (with the 
favour of Heaven) no prince, or 
peer, shall have just cause to pray to 
Heaven to shorten their king Henry's 
happy life." 

Now call we. Kings say we, in- 
stead of /, because they represent 
their whole kingdoms. 

Highcourt. Court properly means 
the building or place where any so- 
lemn assembly is held, and is me- 
taphorically used for the assembly 

As things acquainted and familiar 
to us. The construction of this line 
is faulty : acquainted to is not usual ; 
we say, acquainted with. 

Have foremost hand. To have a 
hand in any thing is a familiar ex- 
pression ; to have a foremost hand is 


a metaphor naturally arising from this 

Recite. Call together. 

Before remember' d. Mentioned 

Heaven consigning. Consenting 

Through the whole of this latter 


part of Henry's speech, he unfolds 
what he intended at the commence- 
ment of his reign. In a former part 
of the play, his father advises him to 
keep the minds of his people busy, 
lest they should examine too nicely 

into his title to the crown. Henry, 

*/ j 

in pursuance of his counsel, had 
determined to make war in France ; 
and, to obtain the good- will of his 
people, he cast off FalstafT, and his 
former idle companions, and assures 


his brothers and the nobility, that he 
will assume the state and policy of a 
king ; and he takes the best and ear- 
liest opportunity of giving a proof of 
his sincerity, by honouring the chief 
justice, and promising to follow his 
counsel. This was particularly suited 
to his design of going abroad ; for 
the chief justice of the king's bench 
was usually, in those times, regent 
(or governor) of the kingdom, during 
the king's absence. 



Peterborough Court, Fleet Street.